Written by Marie Jones in 1996 for the DubbleJoint Theatre Company in Dublin, Stones in his Pockets has spent the last 20-odd years winning awards and wowing audiences across the world (it’s been translated into 38 different languages, no less). Not bad for a two-hander about a small, rural, Irish town that gets taken over by a Hollywood film production.
This particular production, directed by Lindsay Posner, stars Owen Sharpe and Kevin Trainor as Jake and Charlie, two locals who have managed (along with the rest of the town) to get roles as extras in the film. However, Sharpe and Trainor don’t have quite such an easy ride of it, because they also play the rest of the 15-strong characters, male and female. At a hugely fast pace, too. When the performance started I was interested to see how two players would manage to fill the stage and create the chaos of a film set without causing absolute confusion in the audience.
It's kudos to their talent and energy that the show moves along beautifully and without an ounce of confusion. It’s tough enough playing one main character in a complex tragicomic show, but Sharpe and Trainor pull off all of the colourful characters between them, without missing a beat. A turn here, a flick of the hair there and they are someone else. Quite often having a conversation with themselves. The physicality of both performances is unbelievable – and on such a hot, muggy evening I’m not sure how they did it. With minimal on-stage costume changes and timely lighting and sound shifts to take the audience back in time, I was completely absorbed in the story.
The narrative itself is not a straightforward comic take on Hollywood caricatures invading small-town Ireland. While there is that aspect of the tale (the beautiful film star, arrogant director and obsequious assistant), the element of tragedy introduced at the end of the first act sees a young local, Sean Harkin, commit suicide (by putting stones in his pockets and walking into the river). The second act, while still funny, takes a more sombre tone while the town attempts to mourn their loss, with the film production continuing around them, regardless.
It’s a difficult show to describe, but by the end I felt as though I knew the characters personally and when our performers came out to take their bows, I was momentarily surprised that there were only two of them. Absolutely spellbinding.