When I learned that JERUSALEM ran for two hours and forty minutes with two intervals I groaned inwardly and steeled myself for a marathon. When the curtain came down on the opening performance I didn’t want it to end and along with the rest of the audience clapped my hands sore for a truly stirring and entertaining experience.
The writing in this piece makes you want to get hold of a script for your own reading pleasure, let alone see it performed. Jez Butterworth is a poet, a comedian, a raconteur, a dramatist and a roguish teller of tall tales, all within moments of each other. To borrow a promotional line from a blockbuster movie: “You WILL believe a man can fly!” What a pleasure.
The performances just about did justice to this wonderful work. And I only say this for the same reason you should never give a perfect ten score for any endeavour. There is always a possible improvement. But the fabulous ensemble came very close, led masterfully by Nicholas Eadie as Rooster Byron with standout help from Jeremy Waters, as Ginger, and Alex Norton, Pete Nettel and Brynn Loosemore as his gang of cohorts.
I really don’t want to single anyone out. The entire cast were very good. The Wiltshire dialects were sometimes a little suspect and I perhaps would have liked Phaedra, (Anna Chase) to ease back on the projection of her songs for a more ‘fairy-like’ sound. (But that’s just a minor personal thought on what may have been a purposeful choice.)
Great set (Tom Bannerman), lighting (Blake Garner) and soundscape (Alistair Wallace), and of-course none of this is possible without the deft directorial debut of Helen Tonkin. (They say that the direction is forgotten unless the show is bad. Then it’s all their fault!
An old acting acquaintance remarked as we went in from the second interval: “I think this is the best thing I’ve ever seen at this theatre!”. There have been a lot of memorable shows at the venue. I promise you won’t forget this one.
JERUSALEM by Jez Butterworth opened at the New Theatre, 403 King Street, Newtown on August 22 and is running until Saturday September 14, 2013.