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Interview: Game Of Thrones star Ian McEIhinney switches role to director

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: August 28, 2014

  • ON STAGE: Conor Delaney who has appeared in Game Of Thrones and The Tudors. Picture: Patrick Redmond

  • Stephen Jones and Conor Delaney in rehearsals please credit Patrick Redmond

  • DIRECTOR: Ian McElhinney at work. Left: Stephen Jones and Conor Delaney in rehearsals. Pictures: Patrick Redmond

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FOLLOWING a sell-out run on Broadway and four and a half years in the West End, the worldwide sensation Stones In His Pockets is back with original director and Game Of Thrones star Ian McElhinney at its helm.

The hilarious and moving tale of a quiet Irish community turned upside down by the arrival of a massive Hollywood movie shoot is brought to life by actors Conor Delaney (Game Of Thrones, The Tudors) and Stephen Jones (Amber, Ripper Street) , who play 15 characters between them. Journal2 finds out more from Ian McElhinney.

1. Stones In His Pockets has proved hugely enduring. Why do you think that is?

It's magic! I think it captivates the audience's imagination because an awful lot is created with very little. And that's what I think is the key to its appeal. Once a show has generated that level of appeal and does well in the West End and on Broadway then the juggernaut is rolling, you know? And touch wood, please God, it keeps on rolling.

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2. It must be a world away doing touring theatre, and then returning to work on something like Game Of Thrones?

Yeah. I mean, I had to pinch myself on that one because I've been in this business for nearly 40 years now and had only had the odd fan letter here and there. Since I have been playing Barristan Selmy in Game Of Thrones, I find that I'm recognised much more no matter where I seem to go, and it takes a bit of getting used to. People want pictures, "selfies" and autographs on a scale that I had just not been used to prior to this.

3. With something like Game Of Thrones, even though the books are out there, are they worried about plot spoilers? Are the scripts delivered to you under lock and key?

It's very interesting. I mean they've really tightened their ship in every regard since year one. It used to be that you get all 10 scripts but now we only get the scripts that we are involved in. You have to piece together bits of the story that you haven't seen.

4. And what's the actual filming experience like? It looks hot and very physical.

Yes. I mean, you say to somebody, "I'm off to Morocco to shoot for six weeks." and they say, "lucky you". In a sense you are very lucky to get the chance to spend six weeks in the Moroccan sun in the middle of the autumn but when you're working the days are long, the armour is heavy and walking through sand is tiring. It is a testing environment but it's good to be part of something worthy.

And it all conveys on screen because they have the money and the will to spend on production. When you look at a finished episode you think, "Well I know where the money's gone. I can see it in the scale, the vision, the input and the integrity of how these things are put together." You can't help but be impressed by it.

5. The acting in Game Of Thrones must be completely different to what Conor and Stephen are trying to do in Stones In His Pockets?

Conor and Stephen play 15 characters between them in Stones In His Pockets and they have to be able to perceptively create different kinds of characters. In the blink of an eye you have to see another body shape, hear another voice, and become aware of a different person. They have to be able to give you that flexibility, and some actors are very gifted that way.

6. Tell me, the play was written by your wife and you have your own production company. Would you advise working that closely with one's own spouse?

I think it depends on the relationship. [Laughter]. The bottom line is, you trust each other, trust the material because I know that she has a tremendous ability. I think she also gets considerable empathy from her audience because not only is there a warmth and honesty in her writing but she also has a wicked and powerful sense of humour. So I know the material that comes to me ought to work theatrically and my job is just to try and ensure that it does. She trusts me to get on with that and is very good at leaving me alone really. [Laughter].

Stones In His Pockets is at the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple on Thursday, September 18, 7.45pm. Tickets: £24.50 (full), £21.50 (member), £12.50 (young person). Box office: 01271 324242.

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