Friday, March 24, 2017

Stones in his Pocket by Marie Jones

Directed by Chris Bendall. Critical Stages. The Q, Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. Thurs- Sat March 23-25 at 8pm. Matinee Sat March 25 at 2pm.

Stones in His Pockets is a quiet two hander with a touch of mayhem and an insight into Irish social history. In the hands of players Grant Cartwright and Sean Hawkins who play multiple characters regardless of age or gender it becomes a gently funny piece that questions cultural stereotyping.

An American film crew comes to a little Irish town to make a film. The locals including young men Charlie and Jake are roped in as extras. John Ford’s 1952 film The Quiet Man came to mind even before one of the characters turned out to be the last surviving extra from that epic.  Against a backdrop of stunning local scenery the real Irish watch Americans play the leads while they play the ones with no lines.

The fantasy of filmmaking comes up against the economic struggles of the two young men.  A third loses his way in drugs as agriculture goes under and he can’t find a future there. Meanwhile the film’s star is ruthlessly trying to catch the local accent through seduction, and the film makers try to plough on with filming even though the locals need time off to be at a mate’s funeral.

The script is not quite as tough about all of this as it might be and tends to leave tensions underdeveloped. But it is worth seeing for the performances of Cartwright and Hawkins, who are masterly in their segues through a very wide range of characters. Throw in Alexander Berlage’s subtle lighting and Dann Barber’s rumpled gorgeous backdrop and it’s likely the themes and the place and the people will remain in the mind.

 Alanna Maclean