|Written by||Jez Butterworth|
|Date premiered||15 July 2009|
|Place premiered||Royal Court in London|
Jerusalem is a play by Jez Butterworth that opened in the Jerwood Theatre of the Royal Court Theatre in London in 2009. The production starred Mark Rylance as Johnny "Rooster" Byron and Mackenzie Crook as Ginger. After receiving rave reviews, its run was extended. In January 2010 it transferred to the Apollo Theatre; it played on Broadway in the summer of 2011.
Butterworth's Jerusalem is not to be confused with the 2005 play of the same name by Simon Armitage.
On St. George's Day, the morning of the local county fair, Johnny "Rooster" Byron, local waster and modern-day Pied Piper, is a wanted man. The council officials want to serve him an eviction notice, his son wants him to take him to the fair, Troy Whitworth wants to give him a serious kicking, and a motley crew of mates want his ample supply of drugs and alcohol.
Jerusalem has a cast of around 14:
Johnny "Rooster" Byron – opinionated eccentric ex-daredevil and teller of fantastically improbable stories, he has a young son whom he rarely sees, and lives in a caravan in the local woods. He holds parties where he gets drunk and supplies drugs, some of them to under-age kids.
Ginger – underdog of the group, he is older than the others who hang around with Johnny, never having grown out of the lifestyle. He aspires to be a DJ, but is an unemployed plasterer.
The Professor – vague and whimsical, the elderly professor spouts philosophical nothings and unwittingly takes LSD.
Davey – young teenage abattoir worker who is best friends with Lee, and visits Rooster regularly for free drugs and alcohol. He can't stand the idea of leaving Wiltshire.
Troy Whitworth – local thug, the same age as Ginger; his stepdaughter, whom (it is strongly implied) he sexually abuses, goes missing in the play; he badly beats Johnny up at the end of the play.
Lee – young teenager, he enters the play having been hidden in the sofa asleep after about 15 minutes; he plans to emigrate to Australia the next day, despite having little money to take with him.
Phaedra – Troy's stepdaughter, she is seen at the beginning of both Act One and Two singing the hymn "Jerusalem" dressed in fairy wings, and her disappearance is referred to; only at the end of Act Two is it revealed that she is hiding in Johnny's caravan.
Pea and Tanya – two local girls who emerge from underneath Johnny's caravan, having fallen asleep drunk there.
Dawn – Johnny's ex-girlfriend and mother to his child, though she disapproves of his lifestyle; having spent some time with him she relapses and kisses him, but there is no reconciliation.
Marky – Johnny's six-year-old son.
Wesley – the local pub landlord, he is involved in the festivities for St George's Day and has been roped into doing the Morris Dancing.
Linda Fawcett and Luke Parsons – the council officials.
Frank Whitworth – Brother of Troy Whitworth
Danny Whitworth – Younger brother of Troy and Frank Whitworth
Inspiration for the play
The character of Johnny "Rooster" Byron was based on retired builder Micky Lay, who lived in a caravan in Pewsey, Wiltshire. Rylance met Lay and modelled his performance on Lay's mannerisms; he later gave Lay the Tony award he had received for his performance. Lay died of a heart attack while waiting for his local pub to open in December 2013. Though the location of events is not specified in the play, the community depicted is based on Pewsey, and the local festival is modelled on Pewsey's annual carnival week.
2009 Royal Court
The premiere of the play was at the Royal Court Theatre in London in the downstairs Jerwood Theatre. The staging involved live chickens, a live tortoise and goldfish, and several real trees surrounding an onstage caravan.
It was directed by Ian Rickson and starred Mark Rylance as Johnny, Mackenzie Crook as Ginger, Alan David as the Professor, Tom Brooke as Lee, Danny Kirrane as Davey, Gerard Horan as Wesley and Barry Sloane as Troy Whitworth, Aimee-Ffion Edwards as Phaedra, Lucy Montgomery as Dawn and Dan Poole as Danny.
It received very positive reviews all round:
There are several of the Royal Court's trademark "in your face" shock tactics and an exceptionally high swear word count even by the exacting standards of the address, this rich three-hour play is also tender, touching, and blessed with both a ribald humour and a haunting sense of the mystery of things. — The Daily Telegraph
Jerusalem is a bold, ebullient and often hilarious State-of-England or (almost) State-of-Olde-England play... [Johnny] is a shrewd, bold, defiant, charismatic, even mesmeric man born out of his time. Imagine King Arthur reincarnated as a troll and you have something of the quality he brings to the debased pastoral he grittily, comically and finally mournfully inhabits. — The Times
Rylance is magnificent in a hugely demanding role, and restores one's faith in the power of theatre to make a really beautiful noise and on a scale that is both epic and potentially popular. — The Independent
2010 West End
Following a successful run at London's 380-seat Royal Court theatre, Jerusalem transferred to London's West End at the 796-seat Apollo Theatre for a limited 12-week season from 28 January 2010, closing on 24 April 2010. There it received its first negative review. Tim Walker in the Sunday Telegraph wrote of the character of Rooster: "With his chest out and his head back, lined up in a vertical line with his bottom, the actor does indeed resemble a rooster. The problem with the term 'local personality,' however, is that it is all too often a polite euphemism for a crushing bore, and three hours in Rooster's company does prove to be something of an endurance test." Rylance won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor for his performance.
Jerusalem opened on Broadway on 21 April 2011 at the Music Box Theatre, following previews from 2 April 2011. It was scheduled to play a limited season until 24 July 2011, and then got a four-week extension (to 21 August). Mark Rylance reprises the role of Rooster, with Mackenzie Crook and most of the original Royal Court cast also transferring. The full cast for the production was announced on 17 February 2011, with John Gallagher, Jr., Max Baker, Geraldine Hughes, Richard Short, Molly Ranson, and James Riordan joining the show. The play received a Tony Award nomination for Best Play, but lost to War Horse. Rylance won the Best Actor in a Play award for his performance.
2011 return to West End
After its Broadway engagement, Jerusalem returned to the West End in London, playing at the Apollo from 8 October 2011 until 14 January 2012. Again, reviews were very positive, with The Daily Telegraph critic Charles Spencer giving it five stars (out of five), describing Mark Rylance as "an actor of indisputable greatness, giving the most thrilling performance it has ever been my privilege to witness."
2014 San Francisco
In January 2014, Jerusalem had its west coast premiere at the San Francisco Playhouse in San Francisco, California. The first professional production of the play without the involvement of playwright Jez Butterworth, the play garnered positive reviews, with San Francisco Examiner critic Jean Schiffman lauding Brian Dykstra's "enthralling, complex portrayal" of Johnny "Rooster" Byron.
In February 2018 Jerusalem had its Canadian premiere produced by Outside the March and The Company Theatre at Toronto's Streetcar Crowsnest. The production included Canadian actors Kim Coates as Johnny "Rooster" Byron, and Nicholas Campbell. The production marked Coates's return to the stage after almost 30 years. He won the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male in a Principal Role – Play (Large Theatre), and the production won the award for Outstanding Production of a Play, at the 2018 Dora Awards.
November 2017 at the Abbey Theatre, St Albans, UK. Marlon Gill played Rooster. Directed by Jenny Kilcast.
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