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Delightful double act's twice as nice

IT'S no use teaching Caroline Giovanni how to speak with an Irish accent. She's getting $6m to star in her latest movie, but do you think she can say "father" like the rest of us? Nope. Not unless she gets friendly with a local.

Let's call it research. Indeed, when the cast and crew of a Hollywood picture descend upon a rural town in Co Kerry to resuscitate Romantic Ireland for the big screen, the place comes to a stand-still.

The locals get jobs as extras for 50 quid a day. One is an elderly chancer who popped up in The Quiet Man (he's famous, you know). Another, Charlie, is an aspiring screenwriter whose DVD shop went under. And then there's Jake, whose wishful trip to America ended on a flat note.

Here's the thing – there's only two actors on that stage, and they play everyone. Film director, assistants, Jake, Charlie, the auld fella and Caroline. There's no fuss, very few costume changes, and one of the barest stages you're likely to come across. And it's brilliant.

Marie Jones' Stones in His Pockets has played all over the world since premiering in Belfast in 1996. It even picked up a couple of Olivier Awards along the way.

And yet, despite the numerous re-reruns and revivals, Jones' story of a village overrun by Tinseltown will always have a place on an Irish stage.

It's a comedy, of course – and an inventive one, at that. But it's also quite tragic, and its title is derived from a story element that sees a troubled teenager, Sean, drown himself after the film's highfalutin superstar has him thrown out of the local pub.

jubilation

A tricky two-hander, then, its iridescent script balances grief and jubilation, leaving little room for error and even less so for breaks in between character switches.

Stephen Jones and Damian Kearney share 15 roles between them in director Ian McElhinney's solid production. They make it look easy.

Whether it's a comical exchanges between Stephen's Caroline and Damian's Jake, or a touching flashback to when Sean was a kid, both actors apply a remarkable level of range, humour, exuberance and, most importantly, imagination.

You'll forget there are only two performers involved. And that's quite an achievement. A wonderful play. HHHHI

Running until March 29


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