Dreaming of Stones
Marie Jones’s multi award-winning, internationally acclaimed “Stones in his Pockets” is rapidly becoming something of a modern, Irish classic. And deservedly so. Constantly revived, Jones's hilarious interrogation of Hollywood’s fascination with Ireland, and Ireland's fascination with Hollywood, is deceptively brilliant. Beneath its rich vein of humour, layer upon layer of intelligent interrogations are taking place. With so much scope, so much playfulness, so much backbone, “Stones in his Pockets” should be a no brainer when it comes to easy success. Yet The Theatre, Chipping Norton, and The Dukes, Lancaster’s current production at Smock Alley Theatre proves there’s no such thing as an easy success. It’s all about hard-work, strong performances, great timing, which are here in abundance, as well knowing that even with all the above, there can still be areas worth looking at.
Centred around Jake and Charlie, a couple of movie extras on location in Kerry for the big Hollywood blockbuster The Quiet Valley, “Stones in his Pockets” explores dreams and their demise, and sometimes their resurrection. In the search for stardust, the star struck know America is where it’s at, for those who can make it. Jake tried, venturing to New York, but has recently returned home and is again living with his Mum. Charlie, looking to live the dream, has a tent, a screenplay, and a blind determination driven by secrets. On the set of The Quiet Valley both men, along with a cast of townspeople, extras, directors, divas and the desperate, negotiate the fracture between the real and the imagined where some die, some rise, some live to fight another day and some just might defy the odds.
Sparkling with humour, if not always sparkling with chemistry, Charlie de Bromhead as Jake and Conan Sweeny as Charlie turn in two solid performances as the cast and crew of The Quiet Valley, with Sweeny’s Caroline Giovanni being utterly unforgettable. Indeed, solid seems to be the word throughout, with director John Terry offering a solid production, but one that can feel a little stiff in places. While some moments and characters are wonderfully realised, with the crowd scenes being particularly memorable, and while many transitions are perfectly timed, other moments seem less sharply articulated, and several transitions and characters appear physically clunky. But passion and desire more than pull this production through, delivering a generous amount of hilarity in the process.
For those coming to “Stones in his Pockets” for the first time, there’s so much to enjoy here. For those who have already seen “Stones in his Pockets” this might not seem as fluid a production as some. Yet it’s certainly far better than quite a few others. Between the world of sultry, seductive, movie stars and needing to ensure the cows are milked, Irish identity might flounder to find itself. Yet one thing is certain, its spirit, like this production, is indomitable.
“Stone in his Pockets” by Marie Jones, produced by The Theatre, Chipping Norton, and The Dukes, Lancaster, runs at Smock Alley Theatre until June 10th
For more information, visit Smock Alley Theatre