Two's a company and a crowd

stones in his pocket

Stephen Jones, left, and Conor Delaney

 Stones in his pockets

Malvern Theatres

****

IN THE style of productions such as those by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, Stones in His Pockets is a fast-paced show with minimal cast playing multiple roles with huge energy.

It takes some moments for the audience to catch up with the pace of changes from role to role with little more than a flick of the hair at times.

Conor Delaney and Stephen Jones are fundamentally Jake and Charles, two local lads in an Irish village in County Kerry, who are offering themselves as extras in a professional film being shot in their area. They are two of many locals recruited as extras for £50 a day.

The play explores their fantasies and experiences on set, and their grief at the suicide of their local friend Sean, which necessitates a funeral that interrupts the filming for the numbers of extras from the village.

The two performers spring in and out of a whole range of other characters - Caroline Giovanni, the Holywood star, Ashley who directs the extras, Simon who directs the camera crew, Finn, Sean, the school teacher and many others.

The plot is limited: Jake is invited by the matchless Caroline to visit her in her caravan for a ten-minute meeting despite the objections of her security man. Sean, struggling with his drugs issues, dies after filling his pockets with stones and walking out into the sea. The action moves forward and back in time to depict some formative background moments in their lives as well as these current events.

The life of the play comes from the humorous swapping of roles as well as the rather dry and cynical Irish humour. The writer draws on her close observation of the ordinary characters she was surrounded by in her upbringing.

They are the relative 'nobodies' in one sense, the extras in society who survive on their fantasies and their self-deprecating humour. They cope with the imperfections of life with their ironic humour, unlike Sean who 'couldn't accept that life is not perfect'.

The set was a relatively bare stage with a film strip across the back depicting a skyscape full of clouds. A row of boots and shoes are neatly arranged upstage for the extras to wear. A couple of chairs and a good-sized trunk sufficed to provide various items of furniture when required and contained a handful of useful props. Otherwise the actors provided us with plenty of mime to keep things simple and place the emphasis on their dexterity in performance.

Conor Delaney and Stephen Jones perform with tremendous life and skill, maintaining great pace and a range of accents, characters, postures and general variety. Nonetheless it is a long time for two performers to hold the attention of an audience though the reprise of certain roles and sequences added to the humour.

This is a production that has been highly acclaimed and it has earned a number of awards. Ultimately it is a tragi-comic snapshot of vain Irish aspiration and dry humour which for me, despite the versatility of the performers, lacked substance.

Timothy Crow

14-11-14 

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