By Neil Durham
WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHEN?: Saturday 30 July 2022, runs until 10 August 2022
My companion whispers in my ear at curtain down: ‘Best living actor in this country in a role of a lifetime’ and that does feel like a suitable 12-word summary.
- Read on for reasons including how to get tickets for this must-see show
We didn’t see Jez Butterworth’s play when it opened in the Royal Court in 2009 or when it transferred to the Apollo in the West End a year later or to Broadway in 2011.
We have seen Rylance since however in Farinelli And The King at the Duke Of York’s in 2015, at a Westminster Abbey event in 2017 and Othello at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2018.
Butterworth wrote The Ferryman in 2017, winner of our Best New Play monsta that year, and Jerusalem is the story of Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron who lives in a trailer in the woods in the westcountry village of Flintock and has become something of a magnet for the area’s more outrageous youngsters.
The first we notice at curtain up is what an evocative scene designer Ultz has created of a trailer in a clearing and it’s so convincing we think we can almost smell the grass of an English wood in spring.
The singing girl dressed in fairy wings lends the scene an air of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream while for us the feel is of beloved English bands like Florence and the Machine and All About Eve.
Flintock is divided by Rooster’s charms and the council is trying to evict him from the wood because the wealthy residents of the area’s new estate don’t like the noise and chaos from the late night gatherings that take place around his trailer to which the wayward teens of the area are drawn.
Written pre-Brexit, there’s a sense of the over-officiousness of those in authority, a lack of desire to travel and to experience the world from those trapped in an area and the battle between private and public ownership of our ‘green and pleasant land’.
Mackenzie Crook plays Ginger the closest Rooster has to a friend who is a mixture of thwarted ambition but also a desire to debunk some of his tallest stories some involving even a giant and Stonehenge.
Elsewhere Jack Riddiford (The Duchess of Malfi, Almeida) plays Lee engagingly who does have ambition and does want to leave as soon as the fair is over.
Rylance is physically brawny and like Bertie Carvel (The 47th, Old Vic) is 1 of very few actors so good and chameleon-like that he can melt into a role and be so much more than an actor playing it. He simply is Rooster complete with westcountry burr and gives a performance doubtless even more tragic than he could have given a decade ago.
Like the best of plays, we disagree with our companion about what the point of Jerusalem is.
For us it’s about a society divided looking for a scapegoat to help it heal over and Rylance is just perfect in the lead role. You’ve not long to see it but ticket details of how to do so are in the link below.
- Main pictures by Facebook courtesy Sonia Friedman Productions Tickets
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