As I was walking towards the Apollo Theatre stuffing my face with a Pret salad on Shaftesbury Avenue you would think I was thinking about all of the things I’d heard about Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem – how it was the ‘best new play of its generation’ when it first opened in 2009 – but at that point I was thinking about how I was going to sit through a 3 hour play without need to use the loo (little did I know there would be an interval and a break)!
Now I’m leaving the theatre I’m thinking about how incredibly lucky I feel to have experienced a piece of theatre like it. How each section had me totally hooked as I was transported into ‘Rooster’s Wood’ within a small town in the West Country and having grown up on the edge of Dorset this play was more than familiar, it was real. Uncomfortable at times it keeps you on your feet and is a true expression of story telling.
From the beginning it was clear why Mark Rylance had won both an Olivier in 2010 and Tony Award in 2011 for his role as Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron, after clambering out of his caravan after a heavy night, he cracks open an egg, pours it into a cup of milk and chugs it in one – to be honest, that needed a standing ovation in itself.
Of course the enormity of the production isn’t all down to Rylance, I truly felt that each individual actor embodied their character, from the bar landlord who couldn’t face setting foot in his pub again, to the passed out teen who was off travelling in Australia with only $400 AUD to his name and the 15 year old girls who spent the night asleep under Roosters caravan. The Olivier Award-winning set is totally realistic, with real trees taken from Epping Forest and Butterworth’s signature – a selection of small animals. The set is much like a reflection of the play, a giant, powerful, raw and truly unforgettable piece of theatre.