Stones In His Pockets (tour – Chelmsford)

If you were being pretentious, you might say that “Stones In His Pockets” was about the feasibility of aspiration. Yes, it is about a yearning for something different, almost certainly out-of-reach, but its humour hides something much deeper.

This new tour of Marie Jones' award-gathering play pairs Conor Delaney as Jake and Stephen Jones as Charlie in a production by Ian McElhinney. Both actors have been in it before but never together.

Stephen Jones & Conor Delaney
Stephen Jones & Conor Delaney

As you may know, each takes on many different characters as the story unfolds.

The premise is deceptively simple. A Hollywood company has descended on a rural Irish village to film on location one of those epics which throw star-dust over historical realities. Many locals are recruited as extras; the £50 a day fee at first seems money for jam – not to mention an extra pint or dram, or even two.

Among these are Charlie, who has dreams of scripting his own Hollywood blockbuster; Jake, who has a slightly more pragmatic view of it all having sampled New York and found it wanting; an old-timer who has been an extra with John Wayne.

Finn and Séan, his friend from boyhood days who has discovered drugs and is now trapped in a downward spiral for which even their former Christian Brother teacher can supply no answers are also attention-grabbers. Then, amid all the comedy, tragedy strikes in a real coup de théâtre.

That's not to ignore the incomers – star Catherine Giovanni, her bullying security man, the floor manager and his camp assistant, the film's director Clem – all of whom are more concerned with their personal comfort and image-prestige (which any increase in costs will diminish) than with the actual place and its real inhabitants.

The setting is extremely simple – a strip of film across the back of the stage, imprinted with a cloudscape, a row of boots and shoes (for the film extras) neatly arranged below this, a mobile up-to-date prop basket and a couple of folding chairs. We follow these characters – fully fleshed-out and three-dimensional – as they take us through the laughter and tears of the story.

Delaney, switching from camp Ashley to tormented Séan with a flick of his hair or the donning of an anorak, contrasts perfectly with Jones' prima donna of a Catherine, the floor manager losing control and that iron-fisted security man. You believe in all these people utterly, which of course is due to the sincerity of the writing which offers actors and director such a golden opportunity.

Stones In His Pockets tours nationally until 22 November.