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Oxford Playhouse

The most striking and captivating thing about STONES IN HIS POCKETS is that two actors play all the parts, male and female, with great energy and panache. The way they switch postures, voices, and characters is the great joy of the piece and delightful to behold. The concept and approach of this play creates the opportunity for a tour de force for both men and as attractive a piece of “theatre of alienation” as I have ever seen. You really are required to be using your imagination to “see” the story of the play while still being aware at every moment that this is artificial, theatrical, two guys up on a stage in a slightly exaggerated setting pretending they are different people and developing a tale.

Owen Sharpe and Kevin Trainor inhabit all their roles and make their switches from character to character and setting to setting before you very eyes with immense skill and humour. They are also completely in tune with the pathos of the basic tale, which has a punch in the stomach at the end of the first act that completely shifts the mood of the evening. Stones in his Pockets is well worth a trip to the theatre.

The weakness in the play is, for me at any rate, that the story it is telling doesn’t feel all that original and the theatrical device that drives the telling of this story is also one that doesn’t enable you completely to identify with the characters. It lacks, as a piece, a certain depth of exploration of the situation. Martin McDonagh, in The Cripple of Inishmaan dealt with a similar situation more tellingly and also more memorably. The tale of Stones in his Pockets revolves around the invasion of a small town or village in Ireland by a Hollywood movie crew and the impact that this has on local characters and the local life of the place. Reference is made to The Quiet Man and how it was filmed in that part of Ireland and at first the evening seems to be presenting the same kind of quaint, Irish whimsy that made that film so enjoyable and famous as its basic tone of voice and approach. But, as in McDonagh’s play, which also references an earlier invasion of Ireland by Hollywood, a darker side emerges.

I have to praise the director, Lindasy Posner, for the staging of this production; and I liked the set and costume design by Peter McKintosh very much. Everyone involved has done well by Marie Jones’s script. The story telling is very clear once you settle down and adjust to the Irish accents and the quick changes of character and perspective. It is a stimulating evening not only because of the excellent performances of Sharpe and Trainor, but also because you have to pay attention and think about what is going on at all times. It is presented with total energy and conviction.

The play is on tour until 3 August. I hope they extend it and take it to more places. It is a very fine example of vivid acting and thought-provoking theatre!

  • Tragicomedy
  • By Marie Jones
  • Directed by Lindsay Posner
  • Set and costume design by Peter McKintosh
  • Cast includes: Owen Sharpe and Kevin Trainor
  • Oxford Playhouse
  • Until 13 July 2019

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Canadian-born Mel Cooper first came to the UK to study English Literature at Oxford University and stayed. He was captivated by the culture and history of Britain, which he found to be a welcoming and tolerant country. After working in highly illustrated, non-fiction publishing for over a decade, he founded and edited the magazine Opera Now. Since then he has worked as a consultant to the Japanese broadcaster NHK, a broadcaster on British Satellite Broadcasting, a maker of audio shows and arts critic for several airlines, and as one of the team that started Britain’s first commercial classical music radio station, Classic FM, on which he was both a classical music DJ and creator and presenter of shows like Classic America and Authentic Performance. Throughout this period, he also lectured in music and literature in London and Oxford and published short stories in Canada. After working with the Genesis Foundation on helping to fund arts projects, he continues to write, review and lecture on music and literature. His first novel has just been published as an e-book. The title is City of Dreams. It is the first volume of a projected saga called The Dream Bearers. You can find the Kindle version of the book on Amazon.

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