Sunday, 21 July 2019

Drama confirms it’s never easy being a film extra

Drama confirms it’s never easy being a film extra

Stones in His Pockets | Oxford Playhouse | Monday, July 8

WHO’D be a film extra? Strangely, an awful lot of people — maybe to while away bored days of retirement, or bring in a few quid, or even to try to get noticed and become a real film star.

That last one is the least likely outcome but it drives on a certain type of person. Otherwise the world of the extra — or “supporting artist” — is very different from the rest of a film set.

That is the background to Marie Jones’s lively Stones in His Pockets. It dates from 1996 before the days of Big Brother, social media and universal smartphones. And it predates Ricky Gervais’s Extras.

Stones in His Pockets is simultaneously sad and laugh-out-loud funny. Two ordinary men are at its heart, colliding with an extraordinary world — the film world — which they can only know from carefully managed PR and the products on the screen.

So when a big-budget Hollywood film with its stellar gods and goddesses comes to shoot in a remote rural Irish village, they bow and kowtow because that’s the new religion.

The play explores the clashes between these real people and the unreal — the thoughtless, ego-driven, selfish, bullying types who think they can take over a town or a village and its people and do what they want with them.

The play is episodic, relentless and a triumph for the two actors who command our attention from the first seconds until the end of its 90 minutes.

Owen Sharpe and Kevin Trainor change accents and characters continuously. They are slick and quick — so much so that sometimes we might be left wondering who they are because there is a bewildering number of characters in this piece.

But the sense and overall message is never lost. And they catch the atmosphere of a film shoot accurately. This reviewer can attest to that.

Extras are at the very bottom of the pile, way below the actors, technicians, assistant producers, runners, security people, security people’s dog, the dog’s lunch — even below the dog’s poo bag.

Take it from someone who stood for two hours on a wet and very cold October day with no umbrella or coat while he watched the Lewis principals being driven around in separate Mercedes with flunkeys on hand to hold a brolly the moment they got out of the car.

Bitter? No!

Until Saturday.

Mike Rowbottom

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