Tuesday, 13 November 2001

Stones in his Pockets , Nov 13, 2001

By  Marie Jones
 Melbourne Theatre Company & Sydney Theatre Company 
at Fairfax Studio,  Arts Centre,  until 15 December, 2001
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

So often, the Irish are represented on screen as eccentric, cute and quirky. They must be bored to tears with it.

The desire to challenge these stereotypes may have been the motivation for Belfast playwright, Marie Jones, to write Stones in his Pockets.

Strangely, her characters are almost as stereotypical as those in the American 'fillums' that she parodies. It looks as if she wrote it to cater to the US thirst for Irish theatre, not to challenge it. This does not make it any less entertaining.

The residents of a village in County Kerry on the Atlantic coast of Ireland are paid forty quid as extras to add local colour to a movie. The Americans are vain, superficial and self-interested and the film seems comically reminiscent of the awful  Ryan's Daughter.

In this co-production with Sydney Theatre Company, actor, Garry McDonald makes his directorial debut. He keeps the pace swift, the laughs frequent and the stage almost empty.

Richard Roberts spare design hints at location with a slide of the Irish coastline and several film camera cases.

Actors, Greg Stone and Philip Dodd, play multiple characters and are successful in the greater part.

Their central characters, Jake ( Stone) and Charlie ( Dodd) are new to film. Both are losers who fantasise about making it in the movies and with the leading lady.

The movie system conspires to keep them in their places - at the bottom of the food chain and the food queue.

Stone and Dodd make a good comic duo, being physical opposites.  They people the stage with quaint characters, shifting gears in a beat, to change characters.

McDonald directs them as if in a dance as they weave a path from one personality to another.

Stone is delightful as the drunken old villager, Mickey, " 'last remaining extra from 'The Quiet Man.' " As Jake, he is the voice of the disenfranchised Irish. His spritely playing of Sean Harkin offsets the boy's tragedy.

Dodd, as Charlie, elicits our sympathy when he reveals his past and his dreams and his security guard, Jack, is a hoot.

There is some lack of definition in characterisation. Transitions between characters are sometimes blurry. Characters are generally  two-dimensional which is ironic given Jones' apparent intention to break the pattern of Irish representation.
Stones is a warm, amusing and charming play. However, its argument about the exploitation of the Irish is laboured by the end.

By Kate Herbert

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