Billy Roche’s play A Handful of Stars has transferred to the Trafalgar Studios after a successful run at Clapham’s Theatre 503.
Set in a small Irish town, where you marry the girls you get pregnant and having a job, any job, is a God-send, the play focuses on the frustrations of masculinity being constrained in a town where futures are bleak and mundane.
Jimmy is good-looking lad on the verge of manhood, but rather than knuckling down and becoming a respectable member of society, he is intent on taking what he wants and taking out his frustrations. The local pool hall is his haunt and throughout the show the local townsfolk try to knock sense into him before his inevitable demise. The trouble is that by setting the action in a small town where nothing happens, well… nothing really happens. The plot meanders to its climax and I couldn’t help leaving thinking, ‘is that it?’
Ciaran Owens bristles with rage as he struts about the stage asking for trouble in the role of Jimmy. His swagger is reminiscent of James Dean and he is your typical bad boy. His thick Irish accent is a times hard to understand due to the speed at which he speaks. Jimmy’s nervous best friend Tony is equally ably played by Brian Fenton who retreats into himself further and further as Jimmy’s behaviour becomes more erratic. He anxiously twitches and skirts around the members only lounge which Tony so desperately wants to be invited into. Michael O’Hagan potters around the stage hilariously as old man (and pool hall owner) Paddy.
The star pull in this show is former Boyzone member, Keith Duffy as the just past his prime boxer Stapler. Duffy gives a good performance in the underwritten part and he more than proves himself as an actor.
Director Paul Robinson centres the action around a shining pool table and the constant clink of snooker balls creates the dodgy atmosphere of a pub that you probably wouldn’t want to visit after 10.30pm. Signe Bekmann fits the set perfectly into the Trafalgar Studios, creating a real-life miniature pub with pool table and Juke-boxes.
A Handful of Stars is captivating throughout with great acting and a beautiful set but its lack of any real twists and turns makes the story a little too plain. I felt a little like I was watching two hours of reality TV, rather that a well crafted theatre play.
Reviewed by West End Wilma and Rosalie Carter