The Tricycle theatre’s soon to be Artistic Director Indhu Rubasingham showcased her impressive directing dexterity at last night’s opening of the revival of Marie Jones’s two-hander Stones In His Pockets.
While Jamie Beamish and Owen McDonnell may be the only two to step on the stage during the Irish comedy, all manner of characters grace us with their presence. The pair dash and swirl round the stage as they transform from old drunks to glamorous Hollywood film starlets to lip-smacking aged directors, with not one dip in energy or concentration in what must be an exhausting two hours.
The lead characters Charlie and Jake meet as extras on an American film being shot in the Irish countryside. Charlie, idealistic and rosy cheeked, has a script in his pocket ready to be discovered by one of the many producers who have invaded the small town’s pub, while Jake, weathered by a life that hasn’t quite transpired as planned, embarks on a friendship that leads to discovering inspiration in unlikely places.
The genius of Jones’s story comes not just from the seamless portrayal of dozens of characters by the subtle alteration of an accent or the way the actors hold themselves, but also from the parallels between the clashing of two worlds.
On one hand Charlie and Jake are surrounded by the excitement of Hollywood, with a beautiful actress determined to research her role as a rich girl in search of a bit of rough to the absolute limit, and producers who make a life of money and cocaine seem glamorous. But on the other hand, there is the reality of life as a lowly extra, the falseness of a patronising starlet not quite living up to her goddess-like image and the town’s young drug addict who can’t catch a break.
Amongst the comedy of Beamish and McDonnell’s relentlessly animated and accomplished performance there also lies a poignancy and often strikingly sad portrayal of two men who are lost in a country which has changed far faster than they have done. It is this complexity, sometimes hilarious, sometimes painful, that truly reaffirms why Jones’s play deserves a second chance in London.