Marie Jones’ comedy masterpiece celebrates 25 years with some big names playing extras
A host of stars including Adrian Dunbar and Tara Lynne O’Neill are set to become virtual extras in the 25th anniversary production of Marie Jones’ iconic play Stones in his Pockets when it returns to Belfast next month.
The award-winning play, which will run at the Lyric Theatre for almost four weeks, centres around a Hollywood blockbuster being filmed in Ireland and two local men, Charlie Conlon and Jake Quinn, who land roles as extras.
But with the help of technology, Stones in his Pockets will be brought to life in an exciting new way with some of Ireland’s best-known actors appearing as cameos on a big screen.
Among the well-known names who will feature are Line of Duty’s Adrian Dunbar, Hope Street’s Kerri Quinn and Derry Girls’ cast members Tara Lynne O’Neill (Ma Mary), Ian McElhinney (Granda Joe), Tommy Tiernan (Gerry Quinn), Siobhan McSweeney (Sr Michael) and Saoirse-Monica Jackson (Erin Quinn).
Game of Thrones and Holding actor Conleth Hill, who starred in the original Lyric Theatre run as Charlie, opposite Sean Campion’s Jake, will also appear.
It is understood one or two Hollywood stars have been approached to take part.
Producer of Stones, Iwan Lewis, who is also artistic director of Barn Theatre, said the premise was that the extras, Charlie and Jake, played by Gerard McCabe and Shaun Blaney, would become the stars and the stars would become the extras.
“The world of film is a big part of this production,” he said.
“Throughout the show we get to see rushes and elements of the movie that the two men are filming as extras, but we also see their imagination come to life when they talk about their own film that they’re going to do.
“I don’t want to give too much away but at the end, there is a real knock ‘em dead moment as all these superstars become extras in the film, appearing on stage on a screen.
“Towards the end of the play’s script there’s a line ’the stars will become the extras and the extras will become the stars’ and that’s what happens here.”
Iwan said that when the team was discussing bringing the play back to the Lyric, they wanted to do something spectacular to mark its return. The idea of starry cameos was mooted but they weren’t sure the likes of Dunbar or the Derry Girls cast would be up for it.
“I was convinced they would never say yes so it really was the cherry on the cake that they all agreed to do it,” he said.
“It’s testament to the legacy of Stones that everyone wanted to get involved.
“It’s a modern-day masterpiece by Marie Jones that went all the way to Broadway and all the stars have such vivid memories of the production, so were thrilled to be part of it.”
Over the last few weeks, the production team travelled to London, Belfast, Derry and Ballycastle to meet with the household names to shoot their cameos.
“The climax of the play sees Jake and Charlie get their victory and the stars’ appearances feed into that,” Iwan said.
“The show sees Shaun and Gerard shine and the big names support them.
“We’re using the star power of these big names for this revival but Stones has been a great vehicle for actors like Conleth Hill and hopefully it will catapult Shaun and Gerard to superstar status too.”
Stones in his Pocket was originally directed by Jones’ actor husband Ian McElhinney, who pops up as an extra this time. The couple’s son Matthew McElhinney will direct the new adaptation, which will run at the Lyric from June 7 to July 3.
Set in rural Ireland, Stones in his Pockets follows a small village that is turned upside down by the arrival of a Hollywood studio to film the latest historical blockbuster.
Told through the eyes of extras Charlie and Jake, it soon becomes clear that Tinseltown’s romanticised dream of Ireland is a long way from reality.
The play became a massive worldwide hit and won many awards including the Olivier and Evening Standard awards for Best New Comedy.
Tickets are available at Lyric Theatre’s box office, tel. 028 9038 1081 or firstname.lastname@example.org