Review: Stones in his Pockets

Two actors handle 15 characters in this pitch-perfect clash of Hollywood and ‘well holy god’

Stones in his Pockets
Gaiety Theatre, Dublin

It is refreshing to know that two men and a box on a big stage can succeed in keeping a theatre audience fully satisfied for two hours. Director Ian McElhinney has adopted a commendably minimalist approach to this award-winning tragicomic play. Teamed with Bryan Burroughs’s brilliant and immaculate movement direction, and Jack Kirwan’s simple set design of a row of shoes and a backdrop of clouds, this popular production claims a newfound calibre.

The arrival of a Hollywood film production company in a quaint village in rural Kerry causes a ruckus among the unassuming locals, who are all cast as eager extras in the movie, The Quiet Valley . Among the minions are Jake (Damian Kearney) and Charlie (Stephen Jones), who harbour romantic hopes of fame and fortune, and are initially awestruck by the pizzazz of it all, and by the presence of Caroline Giovanni, the film's eminent American starlet.

The allure of the movie business dwindles, however, as the locals are herded around like cattle, having to exhibit enough deprivation or jubilation in their turf-cutting or céilí dancing roles to satisfy the directors.


When a local teenager dies by suicide – by walking into the water with stones in his pockets – the community is shattered, but the production company promptly decides that the show must go on. In a callous act of greed, the film company is reluctant to allow the extras time off to attend the funeral and the discord between these two worlds is fully realised.

While the multimillion dollar film company work their rabble (for €50 per day) to get the sense of idyllic “Irishness” just right, the community that dared to dream is paying the price and slowly disintegrating behind the scenes.

While the play’s narrative lacks a main or memorable capstone, what defines its success in production is the fact that its plethora of 15 characters – including a bullish bodyguard, a smarmy director and an over-ambitious assistant – are all played by the same two brilliant actors. Using only a change of gait or slight readjustment of clothing, Kearney and Jones move seamlessly from one character to the next.

Their various characterisations are, at times, hilariously exaggerated, but there is just enough pathos realised throughout to keep it from adopting a stand-up slapstick semblance.

This is a pitch-perfect two-hander that is entirely absorbing from start to finish.

Until March 29