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Theatre Review: Stones in His Pockets

23 July 19 words: Adrian Reynolds

Dazzling, but Stones in His Pockets gave Adrian that sinking feeling…

I used to work with someone who collected chronometers. Having a chunky chronometer on your wrist isn’t about telling the time, it’s about telling people what kind of guy you are (they’re inevitably a guy thing). There are more important things than knowing when it is. Chronometers indicate the wearer is both loaded, and would like people to think that they are deep sea divers with an obscure need to know the phase of the moon.

The pleasure derived from a chronometer is in the complexity of the mechanism, all whirring cogs and tiny detailed parts. For telling the time, they’re not actually very good. And that’s what came to mind when I was considering what I made of Stones in his Pockets. It is without doubt expertly constructed, but to what effect?

Marie Jones has written a very well put together play about the impact of a film crew on a community in Ireland. The theme is an interesting one, and well explored. What I’m unsure about is why she felt the need to write it for two actors, rather than a larger cast. Between them Owen Sharp and Kevin Trainor brilliantly bring more than a dozen different characters to life, and there are times the play sizzles with humour, sharp characterisation, and is alive with emotion. And yet…

There’s possibly a point Marie Jones is making about the impact of American culture on Ireland as the actors shift their accents and outlooks, maybe indicative of the way we’re all shaped by the USA. That content is already there in the story she tells, and it’s an important one. Whether having it played by two actors and not a larger cast helps, I’m not sure.

There’s a parallel with guitarist Stanley Jordan, who can play rhythm and lead and bass all on the same instrument at once. The result is cover versions of songs you’re familiar with that are often uninteresting to listen to: it’s only when you see him filmed that you realise the skill involved. Virtuosity is uninteresting in its own right. If you’re particularly into versatile actors showing off their skills with lightning changes, this is a fantastic show. For me, the approach used soon wore off – it camouflages writing that while it shines at times, is often pretty pedestrian.

Stones in His Pockets is on at the Royal Concert Hall from Monday 23 July to Saturday 27 July

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