Stones in His Pockets comes with a considerable reputation. This two- hander penned by Marie Jones in 1996, has won numerous awards including two Oliviers. But this incarnation doesn’t live up to its theatrical cred, and for much of its duration, risks leaves the audience feeling somewhat unmoved and uninvolved. The play explores events when a pocket of Hollywood arrives in town to make yet another movie set in Ireland. Unfolding mainly from the perspective of protagonists Jake and Charlie, the story charts the impact on the locals, as we meet those from both sides of the pond.
The piece showcases the abilities of Kevin Trainor and Owen Sharpe, the only two players in the piece. It’s no mean feat to play such a large number of roles, chopping and changing physicalities and accents at lightning speed, all the while ensuring the audience follows who’s who and what’s what. Both actors show a great deal of skill in their versatility and the presentation of clear characterisations. Owen Sharpe especially, plays up much of the script’s humour with his physical interpretations.
The pace is relentless, which while providing boundless energy, makes it hard to keep up – this features a whopping total of fifteen characters spread across just two actors. As a result of the delivery speed, we lack opportunity to invest in them. At times responses and retorts are spilled so fast and automatically, it lacks realism. This is fine to a degree, resulting in amusing and overtly theatrical caricatures, rather than fully believable characters – and even farce needs some of them. The object work is also lacking (if miming eating and drinking when speaking, there have to be enunciation adjustments for mastication and swallowing). These are small details that seem to have been overlooked by the director, Lindsay Posner. Audiences are much less likely to believe in what they’re seeing – on a subconscious level – if watching sloppy mimes. But, in fairness to the actors, these guys are doing some intense multi tasking in acting terms. The accents are tight and they work at full throttle throughout, almost seamlessly flowing from one role to another.
While the play has something to say, it’s unfortunate that Posner’s version lacks the depth to say it effectively. But there are a lot of good points: hearty performances, a simple and well designed set and laughs aplenty.
Photo courtesy of Nobby Clark.
Stones in His Pockets runs at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, until Saturday 6th April.