Marie Jones’ Olivier-winning black comedy Stones in His Pockets, currently out on a 14-week national tour 20 years after its West End and Broadway triumphs, has needed only a tweak or two to bring it right up to date.
Jones’ multi-layered narrative uses a host of characters (all played by just two actors) to trace the devastating impact of the arrival of an American film crew on a traditional Irish community. The locals quickly come to feel exploited – as Irish men and women have done down the ages. But the great success of Jones’ brooding comedy is how it homes in on just two impecunious locals hired as film ‘extras’ (a particularly effective metaphor for people living on the margins of life).
Kevin Trainor and Owen Sharpe offer precision, energy and an exhilarating sense of fun in switching at the drop of a shillelagh between the play’s 15 roles, ranging from a glamorous American film star to themselves as children. But it is as the two extras – the ever-optimistic Charlie (Trainor) and the world-weary Jake (Sharpe) – that they highlight the film moguls’ romanticised view of rural Ireland and their unthinking abuse of its residents.
Director Lindsay Posner, who worked alongside Jones in updating the script, is particularly adept at melding the play’s richly comic moments with the anger of people who feel they have no future, a message driven home also by Peter McKintosh’s ramshackle countryside set.