Mark Rylance, Mackenzie Crook, Jessica Barden, Tom Brooke, Alan David, Aimee-Ffion Edwards, Lenny Harvey, Gerard Horan, Danny Kirrane, Charlotte Mills, Sarah Moyle, Barry Sloane, Harvey Robinson
Jez Butterworths Jerusalem has won many awards since its debut at the Royal Court last summer. Having now transferred to the West End, its mythic vision of a neglected pagan rural England has lost none of its power to entertain and disturb audiences.
The play opens on St Georges Day in a wooded glade in Wiltshire, in which lies the mobile home of local hell-raiser Johnny Rooster Byron, former stunt motor cyclist and now drug-dealer.
A sort of subversive Robin Hood or Pied Piper figure, he hosts crazy parties in this hinterland with his motley band of miscreants keen to escape the humdrum routine of their parochial lives.
But Rooster will not be celebrating the patriotic festivities this year because the council, urged by residents from the encroaching housing estate, has given notice of his eviction the following day, which he is determined to resist. As well as being visited by his angry former partner and their young son, he is threatened by a neighbour who is looking for his missing 15-year-old daughter. Englands green and pleasant land suddenly seems a dark and dangerous place full of primal forces.
Butterworth has created a fascinating clash of cultures between authority and anarchy, repression and licentiousness, secular and mystical, modern and ancient. Jerusalem is not so much a state of the nation piece about what is going on in our society now as an examination of the roots of English identity. Mixing broad humour and savage irony with pastoral lyricism and violent foreboding, the play works on many levels as it builds towards a thunderous climax.
Ian Rickson, who has directed all of Butterworths plays, once again allows the ideas to breathe naturally through the characters in a well-paced production. The design of Ultz, with tall trees vanishing into the flies as they tower above Roosters simple abode and messy junk, gives a sense of powerful nature, while Mimi Jordan Sherins lighting changes effectively from sunny jauntiness to twilit mystery. Ian Dickinsons sound and Stephen Warbecks music also add to the atmosphere.
Mark Rylances charismatically physical performance fully deserves all the plaudits. Beginning with several minutes of hilarious speechless stage business as he establishes Roosters strutting if arthritic hedonism, he goes on to give great complexity to this ambivalent character who is betrayed by his followers, as we feel both repulsion and pity for this wild child beyond the pale.
As his number one hanger-on, the much ridiculed wannabe DJ, Mackenzie Crook is an extremely funny foil, Alan David does an engaging turn as the dotty Professor tripping on acid, and Tom Brookes dopehead is dreaming of emigrating to Australia while Danny Kirranes abattoir worker is content never to venture beyond the county boundaries. Gerard Horan is the local publican cum Morris dancer unhappily chained to his wife, Amy Beth Hayes is the moody ex-girlfriend of Byron and Marc Baylis bristles with menace as the father determined to make sure this cock of the roost ends up on the dunghill.