Stones in His Pockets, one of the most successful and original stage plays of recent years, was at the centre of a bitter legal dispute in the High Court yesterday over its rightful authorship.
Marie Jones’s Olivier award-winning play, which is on the verge of being turned into a film after a four-year run on the West End stage, earned her widespread critical acclaim as its author.
It has been translated into 16 languages and, by the end of the year will have been shown in more than 20 countries.
But the degree to which Ms Jones collaborated in its writing with her former creative partner is now the subject of a five-day court hearing.
Mr Justice Park must decide whether the play is the sole work of Ms Jones, or whether Pam Brighton, a Belfast-based theatre director should be credited as its joint author.
All 15 parts – from that of the spoilt American superstar Caroline Giovanni to the pretentious film crew and guileless locals – are performed by the two men.
The play chronicles the unravelling of a community’s dream and the resulting suicide of one of the extras – the chosen means of death is drowning with stones in his pockets.
Yesterday, the court heard how the two women writers have known each another for more than 20 years. After meeting in 1983 through their work in the theatre, they went on to become two of the founders of the Dubbeljoint theatre company in 1991 – the name is a combination of Dublin and Belfast.
The judge was told yesterday that Ms Brighton was left feeling “depressed” and “bitter” when Ms Jones failed to acknowledge what she says is her contribution to Stones.
She claims she is the joint author and owner of copyright in an earlier version of the play, first produced by Dubbeljoint as part of the West Belfast Festival in 1996.
A subsequent version of the play, written by Ms Jones, which opened at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast in 1999 reproduced a “substantial” part of the 1996 script, Ms Brighton claims. She is seeking an injunction that would credit her as a joint author of the play, and is also claiming damages for alleged infringement of copyright.