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Review of Stones in his Pockets at Hampton Hill Theatre

Stones In His Pockets: Photographer Joanna Leppink - Handwritten Photography.
Stones In His Pockets: Photographer Joanna Leppink – Handwritten Photography.

Now twenty years old, Marie Jones’ Stones in His Pockets is one of the most challenging plays I have ever seen for it requires – no, demands – exceptional performances from its cast. Nothing less will do.

This is because each of the two actors is required to play multiple characters: some young and some old; some male and some female; some Irish, some American, some British. Caricatures and cod-Oirishness won’t cut the mustard. And the actors have to switch seamlessly among these characters, often in the same speech. A challenge then for any amateur company. It is with some pleasure to report that for Teddington Theatre Club, their new production of Stones in His Pockets, at the Hampton Hill Theatre, is a welcome return to top form.

Stones in His Pockets is set in rural Ireland where a film, ‘The Quiet Valley’ is being made, providing income and other opportunities for the locals many of whom have been engaged to play, well, locals. We see the movie progress from the perspective of two of the extras, one a local lad and the other from the North, hoping to find an opportunity to get someone in Hollywood to read a script he has written. On the way to the play’s conclusion, there will be plenty of laughter, good craic, and some sadness.

Undaunted by the demanding aspects of the script, the director, Wesley Henderson Roe, assisted by Heather Stockwell, has decided to make things even more challenging by staging the production in the round. In the round productions can often be plagued by sightline problems and, while there were one or two moments here when one wished one could have seen precisely what was going on behind the actors backs as the actors faced another part of the audience, such moments were few and far between. This reflects the considerable effort that Roe has gone to break down moves and scenes so that key actions play out, subtly, more than once or in brief slices round the compass, and the whole of the acting space is used with consideration for everyone in the audience. And the
audience certainly needed to know what was going on from the very start for it soon became clear that in Roe’s production their full attention was required because the actors were almost as likely to be speaking to them as to each other. In the hands of a less capable director this could have been just a gimmick but here the blurring of the boundaries between the watchers and the watched was wholly justified.

But however effective the direction and however competent the lighting and design, any production of Stones in His Pockets must rest on the performances. And what a pair of performances these are! Brendan Leddy and Ian Kinane are outstandingly good. Kinane gives one of the best physical comedy performances I have seen at an amateur level, bringing to life a child, an old man “with age and envy … grown into a hoop” and a vivacious young woman – all distinct and all memorable; equally so are Leddy’s multiple impersonations, including a bodyguard, an A-list actress and a slightly less than A-list director.

Stones in His Pockets is not a challenge to be taken on lightly but for those with the necessary courage and competence, it provides – as it does here – an immensely entertaining night out.

5 Star Rating

Review by Louis Mazzini

When Charlie, from Co. Antrim, and Jake, from Co. Kerry, meet as extras on a Hollywood film shoot in Ireland they strike up an unusual friendship. As the days tick by and their pay adds up they learn more about themselves, their local community and the people who have arrived in it than either would have imagined.

By Marie Jones
Directed by Wesley Henderson Roe
Dates: Sunday 29th April – Saturday 5th May

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