Great play, nice performances - shame it was inaudible

Preview by Paul Nelson

LADEN down with awards, Stones in His Pockets, still running at the Duke of York's Theatre, is also on tour and that tour has settled on the Wimbledon Theatre stage for this week.

For the theatregoer the story will be familiar. A Hollywood film company descends on a sleepy Irish country village to film (as in the true-life case of The Quiet Man) and the out of work locals are recruited as extras. £40 a day is gold dust and in the crush for jobs are two men, Charlie Conlon and Jake Finn.

Jake has just returned from America where he has found the streets are not paved with gold, nor was he wanted as an actor, which had been his dream. Charlie, from Northern Ireland, still reeling from his shop going bust and his girl friend having dumped him, is on a tour of the country when he sees the sign 'extras wanted'. His shop was a video hire place and he feels he has seen enough movies to be able to write one himself, all he needs is a professional ear and his script will be the next blockbuster movie.

This highly amusing play tracks these two, Jake being toyed with by the star of the film, Caroline Giovanni, Charlie having his continuing problems with the hard stuff, and they end up somewhat disillusioned but with the optimism they can write about their experiences on the film set and make it with a script. There is a slight and tiresome sideline to this plot, Jake's drug addict cousin commits suicide because he can't get a job as an extra and he is upstaged by Jake with Caroline in a bar.

The play has many funny moments, loads of funny lines, and here is the humdinger, the two actors play everybody else, a total of some 15 roles.

Darting in and out of the various characters, the two men, Malcolm Adams and Hugh Lee, give dazzling exhibitions of versatility and the evening should have been one to crow about.

Wimbledon Theatre is a large house. It is not as big as the Coliseum or Drury Lane admittedly, but neither is it a barn. Both actors were difficult to hear. I cottoned on to about fifty per cent of the play but my companion, and here I really felt annoyed, looking forward to seeing her first play in the theatre, could only catch about twenty per cent of the dialogue. It is the first time that I have wished for the one thing I deplore, amplification. Modern actors these days must learn the technique of their job which is not necessarily in a film or TV studio - it could be in the open air for God's sake. It matters little being brilliant if you are inaudible.

The two of us left more in sorrow than in anger, the evening spoilt and my companion's once in a lifetime experience in tatters.

Stones in His Pockets by Marie Jones, Directed by Ian McElhinney, Designed by Jack Kirwan, Lighting by James C McFetridge. WITH: Malcolm Adams and Hugh Lee. Presented by Paul Elliott, Adam Kenwright and Pat Moylan at Wimbledon Theatre, The Broadway, Wimbledon, London SW19. Tickets 020 8540 0362.

NB. The production is now touring.

RELATED LINKS: Click here for The Wimbledon Theatre website...