Nature, simplicity, and just a hint of magic: Ireland offers Hollywood the ideal filming location. Or does it? With Stones in his Pockets, director Lindsay Posner brings to life a tragicomedy about a visiting American film company who, in their film, try to reduce Ireland to a romanticised ideal, but run into trouble with uncooperative locals.
The play focuses on two friends, Jake (Owen Sharpe) and Charlie (Kevin Trainor), who meet on set, acting as extras for a meagre forty pounds a day. Sharpe and Trainor are the play’s only two actors, playing between them all fifteen characters with great skill: they successfully create different characters with almost no costume changes, showing dexterity in accents as they go smoothly between English, Irish and American, although sometimes the strongest accents interfere with clarity. The cast also create exaggerated and funny mannerisms for most characters, such as Aisling’s (Sharpe) silly walk and grumpy facial expression, and film star Caroline’s (Trainor) vacant stare. Unfortunately, these are the only two female characters, and are only portrayed negatively. The multi-rolling also kept the play active and exciting, as Sharpe and Trainor often had to run about stage switching character mid-conversation to allow a third character to join in.
There is also a more poignant theme: when a local teenager commits suicide, the play examines the strength of Irish rural community in the face of losing their traditional farming lifestyle. Sharpe gives an especially touching performance as Mickey, an elderly resident who is kicked off set for getting drunk at the teenager’s funeral. After the heart-breaking revelation that he is being removed from what used to be his great-grandfather’s land, he cries out “I resign!” in a desperate and moving attempt to maintain some dignity as he leaves. This reduces the uncaring Americans’ glamour, as does the overly-dramatic music and exaggerated acting when the crew is filming,
Stones in his Pockets is a highly effective play with a gifted cast and the ability to make you laugh and cry. Where it fails, however, is in its ending, when Jake and Charlie decide to make a film – or a play – about their experiences working on the film. This feels cliched, and the self-conscious pretence that it is based on real life only reminds us that it isn’t. Thankfully, the characters’ discussion of their film’s plot descends into almost fanatical praise of cows’ ‘slobbering’ and ‘dribbling’, leaving us on the final lines with a humorous expression of real love for Ireland and all the cows within.