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Stones in His Pockets

by on 30 April 2018

 

Theatre at Its Best

Stones in His Pockets

by Marie Jones

Teddington Theatre Club, Hampton Hill Theatre until 5th May

A Review by Wendy Summers

When Stones in His Pockets first came out in the West End people went to see it who had “no idea that theatre could be like that” (my sister was one of them). It is, to say the least, an unusual and ambitious choice for an amateur company. Asking a cast of just two actors playing several roles each to play serious drama and low comedy in equal measure and take the audience with them on their journey is a big risk. The gamble at Teddington Theatre Club has paid off in spades. In actors Brendan Leddy and Ian Kinane, TTC gives us versatility, sensitivity and natural comic timing. The fact that they also both ooze charisma and seem to have a natural chemistry (that may of course have been developed over many weeks of rehearsal) is an added bonus.

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If TTC has been brave in choosing the play, then director Wesley Henderson Roe and his assistant Heather Stockwell have been braver by opting for no set, only a hint of costume and barely a prop in sight. This play stands or falls on the quality of its writing and performance, with assistance from a creative soundscape (Charles Halford) and atmospheric lighting plot (Mike Elgey).

The premise of the play is simple: Charlie and Jake, both with their own interesting backstories are extras on the Irish location set of a Hollywood blockbuster. Between them they create the characters of fellow extras, directors, producers, leading actors and various “colourful locals”. This means Kinane and Leddy covering accents from London, Glasgow, the US and at least four (that I counted) different regions of Ireland. This they do with aplomb, although there are inevitably some voices or accents that are more authentic than others. This, though, seems only just when we think back to Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins or Tom Cruise in Far and Away – the Hollywood take on European accents is erratic to say the least.

This play needs to move quickly and this it certainly does, and the ease and speed with which the actors change character is very impressive indeed. Each character is clearly defined and instantly recognisable. It will be a long time before memories of Caroline Giovanni and Mickey “the only surviving extra from The Quiet Man” will leave me.

 

The first night audience in the studio at Hampton Hill Theatre seemed a little taken aback to be sitting in what amounted to an empty room and it took a while for them to catch on to the premise of the play, but once they did their appreciation was unequivocal. There was a lot of laughter and some gasps of genuine shock when the reason behind the play’s title was revealed. For this is not just a rip-roaring, knock about comedy. The play explores far broader and more serious themes, including the demise of rural communities, youth disenfranchisement, the effect of large corporates on small businesses and the “Disneyfication” of history. It is intensely moving as well as hysterically funny.

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The studio space at Hampton Hill Theatre has been transformed in many ways over the years, but is rarely seen as the “black box” studio that it is here. It was both interesting and refreshing to see what actors and director can do with just their talent and an excellent script. And although it made us in the audience work that little bit harder than usual, Stones in His Pockets is theatre at its best.

Wendy Summers
April 2018

Photography by Joanna Leppink, Handwritten Photography

 

 

From → Drama, Reviews

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