Jez Butterworth’s 2009 award winning production was brought to life on the brickhouse stage last weekend, featuring a contentious plot which engaged themes of identity, youth and community. The play, led by the main character, Johnny "Rooster" Byron: a dogmatic, arrogant, eccentric ex-daredevil, would have appeared rather flat without Rooster’s appearance. Every scene featuring Johnny was filled with emotional energy, he graced the stage with an angry, but humoress self-importance. His unpredictability as a character heightened a sense of uncertainty, his every move unexpected; by the interval the audience gripped tightly to the edge of their seats, waiting to hear Rooster’s next fantastically improbable story. Ben Stoll’s performance of Rooster was well skilled, the Wiltshire accent perfected down to the last syllable, his movements erratic yet unwavering, moreover the audience felt an element of sadness for the sick, despicable character. Clearly Ben Stoll had done justice to Butterworth’s original character.
However, the performance of Rooster’s comrade, Ginger was less enigmatic. The original performance of Ginger played by Mackenzie Crook in the original production, balanced the madness of Rooster’s character, but this Ginger’s acting unfortunately ran flat. The scene in which Ginger confesses his friendship for Rooster lacked sincerity, in fact it was almost comical in which Ginger responded by walking off stage without a hint of emotion. There were other minor flaws such as the gender swap of Davy, a fresh take on the male abattoir, her relationship with character Lee was altered from one of friendship to one exchanging flirtatious gestures. Nonetheless, the cast as a whole executed the performance with a vigorous energy, by the time the play had reached the interval the audience was left in a state of suspense, eager to watch part two and discover how the plot would unfold.
Much of the suspense was aided by the atmosphere on of the set. The set on stage was well placed, featuring Rooster’s old motorcycle, dozens of empty beer bottles and two rotten sofas. It was a cluttered mess, yet had a sense of homeliness, aided by the actors who made great use of the set and props, and appeared at the start of the play hiding under sofas, tables and making use of the various props. The compact design allowed the audience to feel they were also sitting outside of Rooster’s home, watching the events unfold. The best scene which made use of the set, was at the beginning of the play and featured Rooster waking up from his drunken slumber, washing himself in left over vodka and then concocting a vile drink, proceeding to drink it in front of a disgusted audience.
The play was comic in parts, but by no means was it a comedy. The ending was unexpected for a first time watcher and the loud gasp from the audience made clear the actors had done the final scene justice. Most importantly, the play was able to convey a plethora of different interpretations, one of the main reasons why Butterworth’s play remains popular by readers and watchers alike. Moreover, the brickhouse production of Jerusalem elegantly acted, rich with meanings and its set fundamentally real. Butterworth’s play Jerusalem isindeed a challenging production to execute, but the brickhouse nonetheless did the original production proud.
Emily Fishman, Third year Part II Historian, Robinson College