Stones in his pockets is about two lads who are taken on as extras for a Hollywood film. The action takes place in the Blasket Islands of County Kerry in Ireland. The play is a good humoured exploration of how you start out in the film industry and exposes the precarious nature of life as an artist. Charlie Conlon tries desperately to get the lead actor and directors to read his script throughout the play with limited success.
Ciaran O’Connor acts as Jake Quinn, newly returned from America. He is native to Blasket Islands and related to half of the community. Jake is straight talking, compassionate and a deep thinker. He doesn’t run away from reality, even in his darkest moments and he takes everything to heart.
In the course of the play, Ciaran plays six other cameo parts and the character of Mickey, the professional extra, deserves special mention. Ciaran has been with the theatre company for twenty years and should continue to seek leading roles. In Stones in his Pockets, he is very understated as Jake and a delight to watch.
Ben Hayward, cast primarily as Charlie Conlon also has credits to his name and is making his debut at Brighton Little Theatre Company. He moved down to Brighton during the pandemic and works hard as a junior doctor in his spare time. He plays a lot of the cameos involving the film crew, particularly the part of Caroline Giovanni, an alluring American film star. Charlie Conlon is a young man trying to find himself. His video shop folds and he arrives in Blasket Islands in pursuit of dreams and may be running away from some ghosts.
At the heart of Stones in his pockets is a clash of cultures between the film crew who are restless and ruthless, always pushing forward and the sleepy, close-knit Irish community that cherishes family, friendship and their cows. Tragedy strikes at the end of the first half and then Jake and Charlie have to come to terms with what has happened. There is a whisper of romance.
Direction by Harry Atkinson is excellent and the set works well. Characters change in a matter of seconds which is a great achievement. Ciaran O’Connor and Ben Hayward are on stage throughout the full length of the production which takes stamina and grit – their acting is outstanding. The script was written by Marie Jones and is a little slow to get going in the first half but mention of lemon meringue pie makes the audience laugh from the outset.
I thoroughly recommend Stones in his pockets brilliantly executed by Brighton Little Theatre. Expect a lot of laughs underpinned by poignancy as an Irish community comes to terms with loss. A twist at the end brings hope, purpose and fulfilment.
Four stars ****
Warning: This play includes themes of suicide.