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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Stones In His Pockets
Duchess Theatre       Winter 2006

Barely two years after its long original run ended, Marie Jones's two-hander comedy is back with a new director and new actors, and there is no reason why those who haven't seen it before shouldn't have a pleasant -if not especially memorable - evening of theatre.

Jones's central characters are a couple of Irish guys hired, as is their whole village, as extras on a Hollywood film being made locally.

We get to see them hanging about, trying to look like 'authentic' Irish peasants in the crowd scenes, and commenting on the generally silly goings-on.

What adds to the fun is that the two actors also play Everyone Else, from a garrulous old hand to the glamorous female star.

About midway through, something very serious happens, and the comedy of the second half is coloured by the realisation that Hollywood's fantasies actually make audiences more aware of the comparative emptiness of their real lives.

It is fun, and the dark touches don't really get in the way, though David Bownes's direction seems (if memory serves) to have muted both the laughs and the shudders since the original.

The show depends on the close teamwork of the actors, so that when one of the leads became ill just before opening night, the other had to step aside and let the understudy team open the run (though you couldn't prove that to the woman who came out at the end, looked at the signs, and commented that this one looked a lot thinner in person)

Of the pair I saw, Conrad Kemp has some of the flashier quick changes, notably the terminally perky female production assistant and the gnarled old veteran, and makes the most of them.

John Cronin is definitely the weaker link in this pairing, doing little to characterise or differentiate his different voices, and getting far too little out of the airheaded movie star.

(The "A" team of Hugh Lee and Simon Delaney may, of course, have an entirely different dynamic.)

The whole thing so fragile and gossamer as to barely be there at all, and you are likely to forget most of it within days. But even in this muted form, Stones In His Pockets offers two hours of amiable theatrical fun.

Gerald Berkowitz

[Footnote: With the nominal stars never returning to the production, it closed in 4 weeks.]

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Review of  Stones In His Pockets - Duchess Theatre 2006
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