Theater Review: Jerusalem | The week Great Britain

“There’s Mighty, and then there’s Mark Rylance jerusalem, a performance so connected to her character that it feels almost superhuman,” said Matt Wolf in The New York Times. In 2009, Jez Butterworth’s play and Rylance’s amazing twist in the middle took the world by storm. Now it’s back, transporting audiences once again to a Wiltshire woodland on St George’s Day, where Johnny “Rooster” Byron – a charismatic, big-chested drug-dealing convict who celebrates with local youth – clears his illegal camp threatens.

The production reunites Rylance, 62, with director Ian Rickson and some of the original cast, including Mackenzie Crook, who is still “heartbreaking” as Ginger, the staunchest of Rooster’s ragtag band. And it’s a triumph: This is “not a museum piece built on old glory, but a vital experience with a revitalizing effect”.

Jerusalem is “the hunk of the century so far,” Sarah Crompton said on What’s On Stage. And here “it’s even better than before: the performances richer, the melancholy that underpins its wild comic energy stronger”.

The play’s “dark undercurrents” are also more disturbing, Sarah Hemming told the Financial Times. It takes place in a country “torn by arguments and disputations, which has seen Brexit, rising racism, culture wars and the growth of performative patriotism”. In a world transformed by #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, “the male characters’ tasteless jokes” and casual racism “look uglier now, as do references to underage sex”; and the female characters are still “signed”.

On the other hand, the play’s portrayal of a group of lost souls and ‘malcontents’ is even more revealing, as is the brutal attack on Rooster as a ‘gypsy misfit’. Jerusalem is a play about mystery and the “meaning of legends,” but it also questions the dangers of myth-making, making the drama feel “sharply relevant.”

Heretical as it may seem, I did not love Jerusalem when I first saw it, Arifa Akbar said in The Observer, with its allusion to a mythical England filled with “energies, druids and Stonehenge giants”. And the “Lesser Britain-style humor” of the first act is now even more flashy. But the play is not “the sum of its anachronisms”; it is an intricate, multi-layered play that expands in the second act into “a mysterious and majestic drama, enormous in its tragedy. Much of this is due to Rylance’s epic performance, which is both physically and psychologically profound.” I don’t think this is the greatest play of the century, but “Rylance’s Rooster is certainly the greatest performance of the century”.

Apollo Theatre, London W1. Until 7.8 Theater Review: Jerusalem | The week Great Britain

Fry Electronics Team

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