Review: Stones in His Pockets (Theatre Royal Bath)
The revival of Marie Jones' production arrives in Bath ahead of a UK tour
Small-town Ireland and blockbuster Hollywood collide in this diverting and occasionally poignant play, revived here in a production from Lindsay Posner. Ultimately an attempt to create a comedy out of placing the ridiculous fakery of a film set in the countryside, alongside the real lives of the place's inhabitants, it focuses a little too much on playing it for the laughs and rather too little on playing it for the pathos.
Owen Sharpe and Kevin Trainor play Jake and Charlie, two extras starring as townsfolk/peasants in a movie led by two big American stars. Charlie is ‘on the run' from his bankrupt business, stomping round Ireland with his tent in his bag, while Jake is from the Kerry village they are in. Jake knows all the other extras on set, as they are either related to him or his close neighbours. But Sharpe and Trainor also play all the other characters on set and beyond, moving through each of the parts seamlessly and fluidly. There's the harassed runner, the barely-there director, the flirty leading lady and several people wearing headsets who shout various actions to the crowds.
Trainor and Sharpe are generally very good at dipping in and out of the myriad of people in this script, but there are more than a few times where stereotype is leaned on. That's mostly in the way the leading lady is dealt with – she's all ethereal giggles and hair flicks. When she shows interest in Jake, potential love-interest rears its head, before being quickly dropped – this lady is happy to use people for her gain as much as the next person.
In fact, the running theme throughout Marie Jones' play is just how callous and cold the all-singing, all-dancing American dream really is. As Jake's young, drug-addled friend starts to cause a ruckus on set, we begin to understand that this village is filled with broken dreams and people whose once strong desires to make something of themselves have fallen by the wayside. As the glamour of Hollywood arrives in their lives, it turns out to be everything they've always wanted and nothing like what they always wanted.
It's a clever riff on the theme of lives lost to inaction and the glory and promise of the American dream, here transposed to poor, rural Ireland. But this production doesn't intensify the highs and lows of the action we see on stage enough so we're never sure if we should be laughing or crying. As it is, it's hard to do either.
That said, Trainor and Sharpe, after an initial slow start, put in some compelling, enjoyable performances, filled with excellent physical comedy, that while away the short running time beautifully. Watching them jump from oddball character to oddball character with such ease is very entertaining. It's just a pity the show doesn't amount to a much more than that.