In Stones In His Pockets, actor Daniel Brochu taps into his roving Irish - and then some
by David King
After the success of Sidemart Theatrical Grocery's Haunted Hillbilly during the last few seasons, it's nice to see actors Daniel Brochu and Kyle Gatehouse reunite with director Andrew Shaver for Stones In His Pockets this week at Centaur. In a play where fifteen characters are constantly in flux by only two performers, Brochu and Gatehouse already have the right chemistry to make it work, while Shaver, fully trained in comedy and clown and with a background at Lecoq, is the right man to help the actors develop multiple personas.
"Because we had a long rehearsal process we were able to do some animal explorations for this," says Brochu, "not to create animals obviously but the idea of that shadow animal incorporated into people's human qualities. He [Shaver] was great at encouraging us to go in all kinds of different directions."
Brochu, who performed in Stones In His Pockets a few summers ago at Theatre Lac Brome, is now jumping into the six roles he didn't play...
Marie Jones' moving comedy, an Olivier winner and Tony nominee, is set in the rural county of Kerry, Ireland, where Charlie Conlon (Brochu) and Jake Quinn (Gatehouse) join other locals as extras when a Hollywood film comes to town. When the film crew attempts to exoticize the Irish setting (a stark contrast to the town's reality), it unleashes a series of events both comedic and tragic, including the suicide of a local teenager who gets bulldozed by his own American Dream.
What makes Jones' play tick is on the page itself; a highly interpretational set of characters left up to us to divide up the roles. Brochu, who performed in Stones In His Pockets a few summers ago at Theatre Lac Brome, is now jumping into the six roles he didn't play in Lac Brome, and loving every minute of that challenge.
"I like playing Charlie a lot," says Brochu, "he comes across as the clown but he has some depth to him, and comes from this place of manic depression where this movie can somehow change his life. I have a tougher time playing the best friend of the boy who commits suicide this week, this perpetual messenger of bad news."
One of Brochu's favourite "hats" to throw on is that of Hollywood actress Caroline Giovanni, who Brochu laughs, allows him to channel his inner Scarlett Johansson.
"I'm not a macho guy so I find it easy to tap into stuff like that."
"I'm not a macho guy so I find it easy to tap into stuff like that," says Brochu. "Caroline is this actress who comes in and wants to use the locals for their accents, but there is an arc to her, as she starts to truly fall in love with the location and its people."
As Brochu will tell you, jumping in and out of character with rapid-fire precision is the play's biggest challenge to the actor, and when you're performing with three different Irish accents, a Scottish accent and an American accent, it's a caveat. With some luck of the Irish itself, Centaur Artistic Director Roy Surette was able to bring in a local Montrealer originally from Kerry to assist Brochu and Gatehouse as vocal coach.
Under the romantic backdrop of Ireland's Blasket Islands, it's easy to see how anyone could fall in love with Kerry County for the wrong reason. Set designer Attila Clemann captures the play's two worlds using a backdrop scrim that blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, upstaged by a deconstructed landscape that is, depending on the perspective, on the road to nowhere. The backdrop is not dissimilar to the one first used on the Broadway and West End productions of the play, and carefully lit by designer Sarah Yaffe, it makes the perfect panorama for deception.
"To me, it's a straightforward comedy, but it’s also about keeping your eyes open."
Brochu, whose last mainstage Centaur performance was Balconville in 1992, is happy to back with this play and team. To him, it's the comedy and style in Jones' writing that brings it home for him, along with those moments of poignancy that are perfect for fully exercising his acting chops.
"Jones is making a comment about any kind of foreigners that come into something and don't respect it," observes Brochu. "In a way it's about how we can be blind, and she uses this multi-million dollar budget movie as the blind parasite. To me, it's a straightforward comedy, but it’s also about keeping your eyes open".
Check out the set design sketches and info on Stones In His Pockets
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