Theatre Review: ATP’s latest has the stones in the right pocket

By Simon Mallett

Two actors playing fifteen characters on an almost bare stage seems like something you’d expect from a small, upstart theatre company working with a limited budget. So when the well-established Alberta Theatre Projects puts on a show like Marie Jones’s Stones in His Pockets, the set and large cast become noticeably absent, allowing audiences to relish in the humanistic story and courageous performances.

Charlie Conlon (Christopher Hunt) and Jake Quinn (Shaun Smyth) are extras on the set of a movie that has taken over their small Irish town and everybody involved is willing to play the Irish stereotype for Hollywood. But after tragedy strikes the town, Quinn begins to question the cost of buying into the Hollywood Dream and forces those around him to ask what is more important–their own values or the movie studios?

All of the play’s characters are brought to life by the two actors, clearly making this a showpiece for their talents and they do not disappoint. Hunt and Smyth make their split-second transformations seem effortless, and there isn’t a single character who is unbelievable in the slightest. Hunt’s incarnation of the film’s lead actress, Caroline Giovanni and Smyth’s playing of local resident and film extra veteran Mickey are the highlights, balancing the humour of the characters with the struggles the townspeople.

The two actors also do the work of establishing the settings and props. There isn’t much physically present on stage, but Hunt and Smyth take us wherever the action is and help us to see every teapot, rolled-up script and egg and onion sandwich the play requires. The set is refreshingly minimalist, consisting of only boxes and a multi-purpose costume rack. There is a danger with this kind of play to over-design the show in order to compensate for the lack of actors, but this production steers clear and provides simplicity and subtlety.

For those who go to the theatre for fancy sets and costumes, Stones in His Pockets won’t have much to offer. But for those who enjoy simple, but effective storytelling, the multiple character acting and minimalist design elements found here will make for a rewarding theatrical experience.


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