Film turns Irish 
community upside down in moving tale

Ian McElhinney
Ian McElhinney

Original director Ian McElhinney is delighted to be introducing the multi award-winning comedy Stones In His Pockets to everyone who missed out first time round.

After a few years away, Ian, who has since enjoyed screen success on Ripper Street and Game of Thrones, is pleased to be going back to the play for a new production for a tour, which takes in Brighton Theatre Royal on Sunday, September 14, at 7.45pm (tickets 0844 871 7650).

Pockets tells the funny and moving tale of a quiet Irish community turned upside down by the arrival of a massive Hollywood movie shoot – all brought to life on stage by just the two actors, in this instance Conor Delaney (Game of Thrones, Jack Taylor, The Tudors) and Stephen Jones (Ripper Street) who will be playing 15 characters between them, from the cheeky lads intent on stardom to a Hollywood goddess.

“The bottom line is that when we first put it on, we obviously didn’t have a clue as to what would happen subsequently. We thought we would just do it for the joy of it, but we didn’t think that it would be a West End show because it seemed to us that just two actors and no particular set just wouldn’t be big enough in production terms.

“But we were lucky enough the first time that we did it at the Traverse in Edinburgh where we got uniformly favourable reviews. Nobody took a swipe at it. Usually there is one critic at least who will carp. And then we took it to the Tricycle Theatre in London after Edinburgh, and we got great reviews again. We had people saying ‘You might have seen it in Edinburgh, but it is even better here!’ Soon it was obviously going to transfer to the West End.”

And so a massive hit was born.

“As long as there is serendipity, who knows what might happen. Maybe in another time, it wouldn’t have worked so well. Maybe we caught the zeitgeist. Basically, it is the story of the clash between the film culture meeting the rural community culture, all played by the two actors that give us all the parts to create these two worlds. At the end of it, you can’t believe that you have had only these two actors when you have seen so many characters. There is something magical about the whole thing. We somehow managed to make it work with just the two actors who never leave the stage. They play the leading lady, the young assistant, the older director, the lads themselves, the old codger from the village, the boy scouts as well... everyone.”

There is a love element – or more particularly a flirtation element, Ian says. “It’s more about the star flexing her muscles to see what power she can have. But really it’s about how anybody can be beguiled by something as powerful as this coming into the community.”

You could read it as a take on Ireland needing something bigger, something almost colonial, but that’s not the reading that Ian has gone for.

“I think when you have done it before, you know that you have got the template. In the early years, with different people coming in, I think I played around with it a bit more than I do now. Now having been away from it for a long time and feeling exhilarated at the thought of coming back, I know that I have got a template that works.

“You have got to accommodate the different actors coming in who bring different things to it, and really it’s about not disrespecting that freshness while also sticking to the format that I know made it successful.”