Theatre Talk: Pocketful of gems

Something to smile about: Stones In His Pockets is imaginative and entertaining. It will be staged at Tamworth's Capitol Theatre on April 4.

Something to smile about: Stones In His Pockets is imaginative and entertaining. It will be staged at Tamworth's Capitol Theatre on April 4.

A comical tale of an Irish town is coming to Capitol Theatre Tamworth on Tuesday, April 4 at 8pm. 

Stones In His Pockets, having played all over the world, including a five-year run in the West End – the multi award winning comedy by Marie Jones - is now touring Australia in a new production.

The play is an hilarious and moving tale of a quiet Irish community turned upside down by the arrival of a Hollywood movie shoot.

The story of a budding romance between a rich girl and a local farmer within the film being made is counterpointed against the actual growing friction that develops between the locals hired as extras on the film and the Hollywood big shots.

It is refreshing to know that two men and a box can succeed in keeping a theatre audience fully satisfied for two hours. Stones In His Pockets is a pitch-perfect two-hander that is entirely absorbing from start to finish. - The Irish Times

The story deals with serious themes of rural isolation and alienation, degradation of local community in a global context, industrial relations and exploitation of locals by large corporations (in this case Hollywood) and also youth suicide.

It deals with the notion of who has the power to tell someone else’s story, shifting values away from agrarian economies globally and the notion of the value of community versus capitalist ideologies.

However, it does all this in a highly engaging and entertaining context, using comedy and theatricality to make the story accessible.

It also explores the idea of “the extra” – the person on the background or the fringes of the story, and by telling the story from the perspective of the extras,  highlights that these are the narratives that are often left out of our histories.

This new production of Stones In His Pockets was created by Critical Stages with the express intention of regional touring.

Over a dozen characters, including the extras, are played by just two actors, throughout the production. This involves lighting fast character transformation, often from one word to the next, with only minimal props and costume shifts possible to support these transformations.

As such, it requires a high level of dexterity in physical and vocal transformation. 

The production involves a simple but evocative set that involves a two-tiered clothes rack and a series of road-cases. The top level of the clothes rack imaginatively creates an Irish vista using the colourful arrangement of costumes on a clothes rack to create the skyline, while the lower level involves fully fleshed out costumes for each of the characters portrayed by the two performers during the show.

This assists the audience to visualise each of the “extras” and assist in embodying each of them, as well as providing a point of interaction for the performers.

The road-cases are swung around the stage by the performers, rearranging to create the multiple locations such as the film set, the dressing room, a bus, a pub, a church and the Hollywood starlet’s trailer.

The production is directed by Chris Bendall (Thomas Murray & the Upside Down River - Griffin Independent 2016, The Magic Hour – Drover Award Finalist, Tour of the Year 2014), lighting designed by Alex Berlage and set and costumes designed by Michael Hili.

It is an artistically vivid and original production, moving and funny, theatrically inventive and entirely engaging for a broad audience.

The Irish Times said: “It is refreshing to know that two men and a box can succeed in keeping a theatre audience fully satisfied for two hours.  Stones In His Pockets is a pitch-perfect two-hander that is entirely absorbing from start to finish.”

In other reviews, an audience member from Gloucester reported: “I was hooked from the very start.  Watching the two actors jump from one character to the next, with just a pair of sunnies or a hat, that was delightful.  The two actors looked like they were having fun on stage, and I couldn’t take my eyes off them…Great stuff.”

Georgia Standwick, from Bingara Arts, said: “Best quality theatre work that we’ve had in our regional venue.  Strongest uptake we’ve had from audiences in our small town.”

Stones In His Pockets, presented by Forty Winks Tamworth, is suitable for audiences 14 and over.  There is occasional course language and mature themes

Geoffrey, the first of Tamworth Dramatic Society’s productions for 2017, opens at Capitol Theatre Tamworth on March 24 and runs until April 2 including six evening performances and two matinees with the charitable partner being Black Dog Institute.

Geoffrey explores the effect of mental illness on the lives of two men, and how their loved ones somehow cope and lead the way to redemption.

Written by local poet Peter Langston, and featuring work from some of the region's finest creatives, Geoffrey is a premiere production from the Tamworth Dramatic Society.

Geoffrey has a distinctly Australian voice, telling a story that might previously have been told in hiding, in the suburbs, possibly even about someone next door. Shining a light on the courage, the love, the destruction, and the recovery which can be mental wellness, this is a play with a story to tell which is both current and important. 

The production is suitable for audiences 15 plus with occasional course language.

Tickets for these and more, available online at entertainmentvenues.com.au or by phone on 6766 2028.

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