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New Theatre, Oxford

Stones in his Pockets is a wonderful example of Brecht’s “alienation effect” working as it should. Two men: one short, one tall; one chubby, one lanky. We find them on a virtually empty stage, with a few props and changes of jacket, and they act all the parts seamlessly; switching from male to female and from old to young, switching voices and accents swiftly, changing venues. They tell us a story acting out all the events – and you see and imagine it all.

What you actually see, of course, is two men full of energy, wit and charm, but what you come away with is the sensation of having seen a whole village in rural Ireland being taken over by a Hollywood movie that is filmed on location and employs the villagers as extras. Therefore, the village is coping with the egos of the stars and director.

Conor Delaney and Stephen Jones are simply uproarious as times. At other times, the pacing is superbly quiet and touching. The script is given its full articulation – and apart from the story it is telling, which in itself is fascinating and very worth following, there is the pleasure throughout of seeing two such professional actors creating all the characters, interacting, changing accents and sex at will in the blink of an eye. The phrase tour de force is, for once, apt. Delaney and Jones have an uncanny ability to inhabit each of the major and minor characters that they are showing us, by changing their postures and gestures as required, and by keeping the audience’s attention. Stones in his Pockets is a strong concept but it needs two very skilled and committed actors to bring it off, and it has them in this new production.

Ian McElhinney, who was the original director all those years ago, has created a touching, sometimes troubling, always charming and sometimes downright hilarious evening of theatre, based on his wife’s text. The title refers to the event in the play that changes everything and raises the most troubling human, social and political questions. Sadly, the theatre was less than half full the night I went; but everyone in the audience felt privileged to have been there by the end. If it comes to a theatre near you, do not hesitate to see it. It’s a really fine theatrical experience.

  • Comedy
  • By Marie Jones
  • Director: Ian McElhinney
  • Cast: Conor Delaney and Stephen Jones
  • New Theatre, Oxford
  • Touring the UK until 18 November 2014
  • Review by Mel Cooper
  • 13 October 2014

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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