BUSAN, South Korea -Enjoying its 3rd week in Seoul, Stones in his Pockets is an Irish comedy written by Marie Jones and brought to Korea by BH Productions, a “not-for-profit” drama company based in Yongsan. This play, directed by Irish-born Bernard Hughes, toys with the rosy perceptions that Ireland and America have about each other–America, the country of opportunity and dreamy film stars, and Ireland, the land of quaint farms and a musical, story-telling people. The reality we learn is something quite different.
You don’t have to be Irish or American, however, to appreciate Stones in His Pockets as it charms its audience with the story of Charlie Conlon and Jake Quinn, who are hired as extras on the set of a Hollywood movie in rural Ireland. While Charlie has hopes of approaching the bigwigs with his own movie script, Jake is the one singled out by the famous Hollywood actress Caroline Giovanni, who deigns to ask him to teach her a bit of the local accent and culture.
The comedy is soon tinged with sadness when tragedy befalls the little town and the extras have to decide whether to give into Hollywood coldness or ensure their 40 quid a day–but the tragedy never really triumphs. With the characteristically fun-loving Irish attitude toward life, the story rises and falls with the same sense of humor and imagination—opening with a ruse to get more lemon meringue pie and closing with Jack and Charlie as they strike the poses of cows in all their earthy glory.
Using minimal props and a simple stage, the director showcases the versatility of the two actors as they weave in and out of the 15 characters that they play between them, choosing not to rely on the more typical costume changes or obvious cues to signal the different parts. London-trained actor Gef Somervell is particularly adept at playing his main role as Jake Quinn in a subtle, believable way while also showing his range at the more caricatured role of old Mickey, a seasoned extra whose claim to fame is working on the set of The Quiet Man in the 1950s.
Ben Cowburn, also originally from England, is equally talented in his own eight roles and particularly steps into the spoiled, rich actress Caroline Giovanni with ease while carrying his main part as Charlie as the more emotional and gregarious one of the duo. His expressive face and resonant voice, although possibly overdone at times, continues to draw his audience in.
According to the director, the greatest challenge of adapting this play for their venue at Vin Vino in Itaewon was the inability of the characters to exit the stage. The result, however, is surprisingly successful and works to keep the movement and intensity of the story while inviting the audience to feel more intimately connected to the characters.
Stones in his Pockets will be in Busan this weekend May 21-22 at Ol’55 in Kyungsung. You can check out the event flyer here.