Sunday, 12 April 2009

Stones in His Pockets - Lowry Theatre

Stones in His Pockets by Marie Jones
Director: John Payton
Reviewer: Clare Howdon

Stones In His Pockets’, the acclaimed play by Marie Jones certainly has longevity. After rave reviews on the London and Edinburgh Fringe circuit and a hugely successful West End transfer, this two-hander is now on the road and I had the pleasure of experiencing it recently at the Lowry in Salford.

The story is centered on the ambitions and fears of two Irishmen, Jake Quinn (Jack Reynolds) and Charlie Conlon (David Caves), who are working as extras in a movie being made by a Hollywood studio in County Kerry. They slowly tell the story of the effect this has upon the local community and especially upon the young man Sean Harkin and his family. After the unfortunate suicide of Sean Harkin, which both Quinn and Conlon can relate to for very different reasons, the studio has to decide between either allowing the extras to attend the funeral or to continue shooting in order to avoid going over budget.

This play has been described in the past as a tragicomedy, which I would partly agree with. Marie Jones certainly has a sharp ear for comedy and the humour of this piece is beyond doubt. However, the writing of the more tragic elements of the play is sometimes a little under-developed and lacks the depth and dexterity of other parts. The reason why Jake Quinn so verdantly blames Hollywood for Sean’s suicide is never really explained. What really brought this play to life for me were the two performers. This is certainly an ‘actor’s play’ and both Reynolds and Caves successfully manage to play fourteen characters between them with exceptional finesse and versatility. Jack Kirwan’s simple yet effective stage design (which comprises of a collection of shoes lines up against the back of the stage and a large chest) serves to heighten the importance of the two performers. Without the aid of costumes or props the actors transfer from one character to the other with a simple change of physicality and voice. The character changes are lightning fast but not once were the audience left confused or lost; a complete testament to the high performance standard of both actors.

The biggest endorsement I can give this play is that by the end you feel you have watched a much larger cast than just two. Caves and Reynolds work their way through a variety of offbeat and outlandish characters including Caroline Giovanni, the glamorous yet fickle A-list movie star (played with fantastic charisma and humour by Caves), Old Mickey, the only surviving extra from “The Quiet Man” the endearingly tragic figure of Finn, the imposing security man Jock Campbell, Simon the First Assistant Director and Aisling, his flirtatious Production Assistant. Their ability to transfer instantaneously from Man to Woman to American to Irish to English is what makes this play so endearing and delightful to watch. It is a master class in the actors craft and David Caves and Jack Reynolds should be congratulated on providing the audience with such a wonderfully enjoyable and energised evening of theatre.
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