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Ends 10th August 2022.
NOT SUITABLE FOR THOSE AGED UNDER 14 OR THE EASILY OFFENDED.
Johnny Byron is a man under pressure. The council want to evict him, Troy Whitworth wants to give him a kicking, his friends want booze and drugs, and his son needs to be taken to the St George's Day Fair.
Jez Butterworth serves up a slice of England in a new play directed by Ian Rickson. First seen at the Royal Court Theatre in summer 2009, then in the West End in early 2010, it returns to London again for a triumphant new run.
(seen at the afternoon performance on 30th April 2022)
Mark Rylance’s performance as drug-dealing, tale-spinning caravan dweller Johnny “Rooster” Byron is the stuff of legend. One that through four previous runs both in London and on Broadway has built to the point where the show can practically sell out in days on the name alone.
The monkey can confirm, on its first ever visit to the play (long story in itself) that watching the man move between clown, philosopher, defender and victim – sometimes in the same sentence – is unforgettable, you have to be there.
There’s plenty to be said for his co-stars (all billed rightly as such in the programme). DJ and closest ally Ginger (Mackenzie Crook) is a drifter perhaps lacking the ability of Rooster to blag through life but still on the edge.
As The Professor, Alan David is a bewildered and perfect contrast in comedy. Understated and rewarding the audience who come willingly to him. Likewise as publican Wesley, Gerard Horan picks up the light and shade of the play itself and weaves it into an eccentric and ultimately pathetic character.
Jack Riddiford as indecisive migrant Lee is in a similar mould, easy to see one as a younger version of either Wesley or Rooster, depending on his life choices. Not that rampant Tanya (Charlotte O’Leary) is going to give him much chance, friend Pea (Kemi Awoderu) exerting no appreciable stabilising influence.
Small notes too for lovely performances by Indra Ove as Dawn and Matteo Philbert as her son Marky. Niky Wardley and Shane David-Joseph as a council double act Linda and Luke, and Eleanor Worthington Cox as Phaedra – a sweet singing voice as well as fey catalyst.
The Ultz set is a triumph, you can practically smell the clearing and all that goes on there. Mimi Jordan Sherin and Ian Dickinson add the light and sound to make it a truly immersive experience, with particular praise for the final act as evening falls.
Director Ian Rickson keeps it all buzzing, new characters appearing smoothly and reflecting Rooster’s chaotic lifestyle and those who orbit around his non-stop party in the woods.
All that said, what of the play itself? A lot has happened in 12 years. Attitudes have shifted in many of its key areas – the treatment of children, women, substance abuse, the travelling community and of course pop-culture reference points. These things all seem now of another era, and sometimes there is a mild feeling of nostalgia instead of immediacy.
It is also a long play, the middle act sagging a little as background exposition provides history but perhaps does not contribute as much as it might to the whole – in particular the final direction the piece takes.
The point is, as the programme notes expound, much of what happens derives from real people the author has known and much of what is told is either real and lost history of England itself or alludes to it. For that alone this is an important work to preserve.
Maybe not quite as impactful as its first run must have been, but the May Queen hands on her crown with honour, the latest incumbent an equal and unmissable holder of the title.
"I just thought I’d let you know we went to 'Jerusalem' and it was a standing ovation. Outstanding acting!"
Monday 18th April 2022: Got there at 9.25am, 8th in the queue. There are 14 front row tickets and some balcony tickets, £10 in preview. I got one of the last front row ones, considered myself very luck (and happy). Stage is not too high, perfect view.
Stalls L16: Normally, I think the view from this seat would be fantastic. For the staging of this show, the cast was sometimes lying or sitting on the floor of the stage and when they did that I couldn't see them due to the head of the person sitting in front of me. He was just average height. Also, there were a few times the person in front of me blocked a cast member standing directly in line with his head. I felt like I was in a partial view seat which surprised me. The legroom was good and the seat was comfortable. Not sure if the head of the person in front is an issue throughout the stalls or not. Still enjoyed the show, but wished I didn't miss so many moments especially at the price I paid!
Stalls G4: A really good seat, probably one of the best in the house given how the stage is set. A decent rake and offset from the row below so you should be OK with whoever is in front of you unless they are tall or have big hair. However the seats are narrow so there is no chance to spread out. Legroom as per normal in a theatre of this kind.
Mark Rylance's line readings on the night I went were sometimes quiet and sometimes delivered with his back to the audience so this might be something to bear in mind when choosing seats.
The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.
Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm
Wednesday and Saturday at 1.30pm and 7.30pm
Sunday at 3pm
Runs 3 hours 10 minutes approximately including 1 long and 1 short interval.
NOTE THAT WEDNESDAY AND SATURDAY AFTERNOON PERFORMANCES NOW BEGIN ONE HOUR EARLIER THAN STATED WHEN MANY PEOPLE ORIGINALLY BOOKED.
Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.
Day Seats: 40 are released each day at the theatre box office from 10am, first come, first served. Limited to 2 per person. £15 each.
Weekly Ticket Release: Every Monday at 10am, 300 tickets will be released for that week. Limited to 4 per person. Prices are between £15 and £35 each. Visit jerusalemtheplay.co.uk.
A small number of tickets in the front stalls may also be available, price £149 each (plus £29 per ticket booking fee) at https://bit.ly/3v9NRx7.