Stones in his Pockets
By Marie Jones
Directed by Chris Bendall
Presented by Critical Stages
QUT Gardens Theatre
Season was from 31 May to 1 April.
Stones in his Pockets is the tale of a quiet Irish community in County Kerry which is disrupted by the filming by Hollywood moguls of a story of a budding romance between a rich girl and a local farmer. Behind the scenes of the film is the growing friction that develops between the locals hired as extras and the Hollywood big shots.
Grant Cartwright and Sean Hawkins are the two amazingly talented actors who narrate the story, playing 15 characters between them.
The story centres on Grant’s and Sean’s ‘main’ characters, Charlie Conlon and Jake Quinn, who, like much of the town, are employed as extras. Charlie has grand ideas of having the script he has written made into a movie and Jake is a bit disillusioned after coming home from two years in New York He though, like everyone else is mesmerized by the star of the film, Caroline.
After the suicide of one of the town’s youth, embittered with the life he had and thrown out of his own pub for trying to socialise with the movie star, the town realises the movie people don’t give a fig about them, to the point that they are not prepared to release the locals to attend the funeral - after all the movie must be completed on a strict timeline.
The other main characters portrayed are an old man called Mickey, who is the last surviving extra from the film The Extra Man. There is a hilarious scene between him and Jake (Sean plays both characters) and as he literally spins (does a 360 transition) from one to the other, I am surprised he didn’t trip up or get dizzy. Caroline was played by Grant and he dons scarf and dark glasses with a change in voice to great effect.
The hilarity continues with this character as she struggles to adopt an Irish accent and invites Jake to her caravan for coffee and accent lessons. Here Grant dons black stockings and is draped seductively across the top of one of the boxes. Sean Harkin is the embittered youth and Jake’s cousin, played by Sean, and Finn is his best mate, played by Grant.
Sean also plays Aisling, the third assistant to the Director and the only change in costume is a hair band, which goes on and off with such rapidity, that he once got it too low down to the audience’s amusement. Simon is the first assistant to the director, always with a walkie-talkie in hand, played by Grant. But the funniest transition I would have to say is when Grant becomes Jock, Caroline’s bodyguard, where he does a larger than life, Hulk-like pump up, so that you really do believe that Jock is built like “a brick shite-house”, as the Irish might say.
These two actors were beautifully paired on stage, their vitality and energy didn’t wane even at the end of the play, still running on and off the stage to well-deserved applause. The dexterity they showed in switching to the various characters, with often the barest minimum of costume changes was incredible.
You would expect to get lost with only two actors portraying that many characters, but Grant and Sean took the audience along with them, and not once was I confused as to which character it was. This was also due in part to a good script, good directing by Chris Bendall, and clever costuming by Michael Hili.
The lighting is cleverly done, designed by Alexander Berlage. It would flicker, like an old black and white silent movie, when the extras were actually filming scenes. The sound track that accompanied the play is also good, not just concentrating on Irish music, but across genres to create the atmosphere needed for the numerous scenes. Another scene worthy of mention is the celebration where Grant and Sean do a type of Irish dance, hilarious and clever at the same time.
The set was simplicity in itself, with each prop set for maximum advantage. Eight director’s chairs with the names of characters on them were divided equally to stage left and right with various hats, coats, glasses, or cane on each for the very quick character changes (one chair changes names in the second act). A loosely hung backdrop featuring that iconic rugged Irish coastline took centre stage. Two boxes filled with various props and clothing, one slightly smaller than the other, were forward centre stage of the backdrop, however these were manoeuvred around the stage as needed to create the various scenes, including bus seats. A wooden bench seat, a rock, two tufts of long grass and movie set lighting completed the props.
This is a fast-paced play, bursting with hilarity, even though there is a sad underlying theme. Well worth a night out.