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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Stones In His Pockets
Tricycle Theatre   Winter 2011-2012

Marie Jones' two-hander had an award-winning four-year run its first time in London and lasted less than a month in a 2006 revival. Some of the bloom may have gone off the rose, and this limited run at the Tricycle is likely to be a limited success. 

Though Jones was not the first to have two actors play all the roles in creating a colourful community (Among others, the American comedy Greater Tuna had been there two decades earlier), her mix of easy comedy and some leavening seriousness does make for a pleasant entertainment. 

As probably most of the theatre-going universe is aware, her two actors play Irish lads working, along with everyone they know, as extras in a Ryan's Daughter-like Hollywood film being shot in their village.

Much of the fun comes from the parody of the filmmakers the third assistant director charged with herding the extras, his overeager girl assistant, the starlet just a wee bit brighter than we expect, the local whose one claim to fame is that he was also an extra in John Ford's Quiet Man fifty years earlier all of them played, in quick changes of voice and posture, by the two actors. 

Director Indhu Rubasingham has chosen to underplay the comedy somewhat the cartoonish comic figures aren't played as broadly as they might be, sacrificing some laughs and to give greater prominence to the play's darker tones, notably the suicide of a minor figure that gives the play its title, and the way it makes the two central characters aware of how dead-end their own lives are.

It's a legitimate choice the dark tones are there in the script but the small gain in depth is outweighed by the loss of comic energy, and the second half of the short play is something of a letdown. (It also makes the abrupt upbeat turn of the final moments seem particularly unconvincing and tacked-on.) 

Since most of the fun of the performances lies in watching the actors jump back and forth among broadly-sketched comic characters, the director's decision to moderate the comedy puts straitjackets on actors Jamie Beamish and Owen McDonnell, only Beamish's Italian actress trying to be Irish generating much laughter.

In a programme note Marie Jones says that she wrote what she thought was a serious play with occasional laughs, and her original director turned it into a comedy with occasional serious moments. Indhu Rubasingham may be giving us something closer to the playwright's original intention, but it's a weaker play and a lot less fun this way.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -   Stones In His Pockets - Tricycle Theatre  2011

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