Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth

To the Apollo to see this great stew of a play. Johnny 'Rooster' Byron, played with tender ferocity and to the very hilt by the magnificent Mark Rylance, is a man of the woods, a drug dealer, a blood donor, a teller of tall tales, a magnet to a collection of motley sidekicks, cock of the walk. There are echoes of Falstaff and of the Athens woods. Set on St George's day and the one following, Byron is about to be evicted form his home in the 'English forest'. There are one or two further circumstances that do not quite merit the word 'plot'. The entire enormous enterprise (it has a large cast including a DJ, a Professor, a schoolgirl, a brazen hussey, a morris dancer, a fairy, a thug and a pair of council officials) rests upon the compelling mystery that is Johnny Byron. We want to know what will become of him. And afterwards we say: we should have guessed. This is a play that requires no piety to sit through, but that pulls no punches. Johnny Byron catches us as surely as does the Ancient Mariner the wedding guest, and we cannot choose but hear.

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