Jerusalem

Definition

Theater

  • A sprawling tragicomedy about the state of rural England by Jez Butterworth (1969 - ). The play, which is some three hours long and took the author ten years to write, earned rave reviews when it opened at London's Royal Court Theatre in 2009. Although critics found much to admire in Butterworth's writing and Ian Rickson's production, the greatest praise was reserved for MarkRylance in the role of the larger-than-life antihero Johnny 'Rooster' Byron. One critic later wrote of "a performance ... so charismatic, so mercurial, so complete and compelling that it doesn't look like acting. Instead, it is a total embodiment of a character."

    The play, which is set in deepest Wiltshire, centres on the amoral but charismatic Byron - a former stunt motorcyclist turned alcoholic waster. Byron now lives in a caravan in the woods, where he holds court to a collectionof young misfits, mesmerizing them with his tall tales and his supplies of drink and drugs. As the action begins (significantly, on St George's Day) things are closing in on Johnny - the villagers are getting restive, the council is determined to evict him, and Troy Whitworth, the local thug, is out to do worse. In his defiance, Byron emerges as a life force to be set against the sterile, over-regulated England that is seeking his extinction: an archetype of misrule to rival Falstaff, Puck, or Robin Hood.

    Jerusalem was an obvious choice for the Evening Standard's best play award in 2009, with Rylance also picking up the award for best actor.Largely on the strength of these encomiums, the play transferred to the West End in 2010 and enjoyed a sold-out run. At that year's Olivier awards Rylancewas again named best actor and an award also went to Ultz for the play's striking set (which included real trees and a selection of live animals).

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