Entertainment Books

Thursday 14 November 2019

Review: Stones in his Pockets

Gaiety Theatre, Dublin

Stephen Jones and Damian Kearney
Stephen Jones and Damian Kearney

Maggie Armstrong

A KERRY village is taken over by a Hollywood film crew and two local lads have parts as extras in Marie Jones' worldwide theatrical success Stones in His Pockets.

"I would like to get into the movie proper, like", Jake tells Charlie in a heartbreakingly keen southern brogue. Charlie is trying to snaffle an extra portion of the baked Alaska pudding that tops up their '50 quid a day' wage, and would also like to advance his career. The two are left to binge on gin in a corner of the only pub and lust after Caroline Giovanni, the blockbuster's slithering lead actress, until whoa! Caroline lures Jake back to her hotel room.

Is it a fantasy imagining of the making of The Quiet Man or Ryan's Daughter? Not remotely. Caroline is simply using Jake as a dialect coach to help her achieve an authentic Irish pronunciation. Her attitude sums up the self-serving, opportunistic, tyrannical blather of America's dream factory, as its agents land in and upset the life of this ailing village for good.

The hint to the tragedy that strikes in the middle of the play is in the title. This is a two-man show brought to life entirely by Stephen Jones as Jake and the swaggering Damian Kearney (pictured) and if it weren't for the ease with which the actors play 15 characters, the existential horror of Beckett's Estragon and Vladimir could be felt. We're staring at a forlorn strip of emerald-coloured pebbles overhung with a screen of nebula – the Blasket Islands. The economical set gives a lot of opportunity for character acting.

There is pure laughter in watching Charlie morph from a Belfast navvy to a Hollywood femme fatale to an aggressive Dublin 4 security guard. Jake, the more ambitious character, hits harder as he becomes a vacuous cocaine-proffering crewster and an oily RTÉ reporter. Tweed waistcoats and a muffled playlist of céilí songs and nostalgic rock & roll place this in the timeless zone of a longstanding commercial hit.

Humour dates slowly in hands such as these actors'. One senses, however, that the one-liners this script relies on cannot last the ages before quaking into clichés like this: on Jake's pretending to be a poet: "I wouldn't know a Seamus Heaney poem if it came up and bit me in the arse". Not brilliantly original. Paddy's Day and its various paddywhackery force us to either join in the laughter at ourselves or to distrust its motives, and this play asks us to do both: laugh, and ask why? Why is the Irish imbecile still so funny? Worryingly perhaps, we do more laughing than questioning at Stones in his Pockets.

Irish Independent

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