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Stones in His Pockets
(reviewed at the Rhodes Arts Complex, Bishop’s Stortford on Tuesday 21 April

Marie Jones’ Irish rural tragicomedy offers a superb opportunity to its two-man cast. Between them they play tens of different parts, including a female one. The setting is a rural village, suffering the usual unemployment and boredom malaises, and currently taken over by a Hollywood film-crew.

A bodice-ripping epic is in progress, with the heiress heroine taking the part of the down-trodden peasantry thanks to their school-of-Rhett-Butler spokesman – with whom (naturally) she has fallen with love. The locals have been roped in as extras, which at first seems a well-paid way to garner a little kudos, even though the four euros a day is more likely to be spent in the pub than saved.

The main two characters are Charlie (Richard Galloway) and Jake (Stephen Cavanagh). Charlie has written a screenplay and is desperate to use the opportunity of the film to get it accepted. Jake has itchy feet; he has tried to make a success in the USA but returned home disappointed and more than slightly disgruntled.

Charlie also has a teenage cousin, a lad without hope or prospects, who drinks too much and is now into drugs. Falling for Caroline Giovanni, the star of the film, he is strong-armed out of the pub where he accosted her and, all hope gone, drowns himself (hence the play’s title). It’s a tragedy for the close-knit village, but only a time-wasting nuisance for the film crew.

Director Gailie Pollock in this new Contexture production keeps the action on the move with low-level projections to indicate location and the main stage occupied by sloping green turf and a bench by a well. The design is by Pollock and Tom Cliff and works very well. But any production of Stones in His Pockets is only as good as the multi-cast two actors, and they don’t let Pollock down.

Whether it’s the camp Ashley and his opposite number cynical Simon, the winsome Caroline flattering Jake because she wants to copy his accent (he does eventually suss this out), Caroline’s security gorilla, the old man who was an extra in a John Wayne film many years ago or the priest who has buried too many of his former pupils, it would be hard to say whether Cavanagh or Galloway walks away with the acting honours. They are both equally good.

Stones in His Pockets runs at the Rhodes Arts Complex, Bishop’s Stortford until 26 April.

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