STAGE REVIEW: Stones in His Pockets - at the Festival Theatre, Malvern, from Monday, April 22 to Saturday, April 27, 2019.

AMBITION, aspiration and hope, much like anyone has in their heart as they seek to better themselves, are all here until they come crashing to the ground.

This massive hit from 20 years ago when it won an Olivier Award for Best Comedy, features two Irish men who covet being successful but seem destined at having to be happy with what they have got - making do with lonely lives and unfulfilled dreams.

Down on their heels and with lady luck declining to give them a second glance, Jake and Charlie - played by Owen Sharpe and Kevin Trainor, find themselves, along with most of their ‘fellow villagers’ at a sleepy outpost in County Kerry, dragged into the false world of Hollywood as film extras.

In fact the duo morph into a myriad of parts as they play every character in this two-hander - at least a dozen… from other villagers, the Hollywood sex siren, and through to the director and an amusingly camp stage manager.

Unfortunately laughs are at a premium, just the occasional titter broke out, as Stones stalls a shade under the comedy radar, and it’s also left wanting when a darker episode hits the community as a friend, also struggling to cope with his lot, takes his own life in a lake having weighed himself down with stones in his pockets.

Insufficient pathos.

Having seen this play some years ago it created some cause for consternation. Was it a comedy? What was it trying to achieve? And how on earth had it won an Olivier comedy award?

Not a smile crossed my lips then, and I wasn’t alone as some of the audience vacated their seats and the theatre!

But much better this time round thanks to the efforts of Sharpe and Trainor who gelled ideally and impressively with their rapid transitions from one character to another.

Marie Jones’ script is set as a tragicomedy but - even after a couple of decades, I feel it still fails to hit the mark on either count.