Gifted actors up to the challenge

This two-hander is a specially-arranged production for Eastbourne in a summer season of plays from the Talking Scarlet Company.

Written by Marie Jones and first performed in 1996, it went on to receive critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.

Set in a rural town in County Kerry, Ireland (a thinly disguised Dingle where ‘Ryan’s Daughter’ with Robert Mitchum was made and is still talked about), two local men, Jake Quinn (Robert Laughlin) and Charlie Conlon (Chris Sheridan), find employment as extras with an American film company wanting to add local colour to the production.

The set, with lighting astutely designed by Shane Ayres, is simple, two large trunks, sparsely hung clothes rails and two canvas-backed chairs.

The cast of two play all 12 characters, often switching gender from male to female and back again whilst changing their appearance with the minimum of costume changes.

Although Jake and Charlie are happy to take payment, “forty quid a day”, for their part in giving the right ‘Irish feel’ to the film, they are devastated, like the rest of the community, when a local lad, Sean, commits suicide by drowning himself with stones in his pockets after he is humiliated by the movie’s beautiful star, Caroline Giovanni, and is thrown out on the street.

Anger arises when the film crew, conscious of the financial implications of delay, is reluctant to allow time out for the extras to attend Sean’s funeral.

Directed with a firm but sensitive touch by Partric Kearns, the strength of this play lies in the performance of two gifted actors adopting different personalities as they switch seamlessly from local lads wanting to earn extra money, to Hollywood glamour-puss or strident extras’ boss, to heavyweight security guard or arch-luvvie film director, in the blink of a twinkling Irish eye.

A fast-paced production of an enduring tragi-comedy.

Stones in His Pockets continues tonight (Friday, 7.45pm) and tomorrow (Saturday, 2.30pm/7.45pm) at The Devonshire Park Theatre.