Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Jerusalem -Review- Peoples Theatre

People's Theatre 
1st May 2012

It’s the day of the county fair and Johnny Byron is a wanted man. His son wants to go to the fair but Johnny has more pressing matters on his mind: the violent Troy Whitworth is after him and the local gang want to steal his stash of drugs and alcohol – from which he’s still hungover.  Now, to top it all, he has just been served with an eviction notice and the Council want him off their land.

Whenever I see so much critical acclaim attached to a play or a film, I often back away from it; so many have disappointed or failed to live up to its promise. This cannot be attributed to Jerusalem. It is WOW. People's Theatre has pulled off the stage show of the century. I can't reiterate enough how good this is. The acting from the People's lot is normally first class, but they have outshone anything I have ever seen from them.
 I never saw Jerusalem (written by Jez Butterworth) when it first aired back in 2009, but the Olivier and Tony Awards and the runs in the West End and Broadway is testament to its character. Professionally it must have been good, and with People's history and calibre of transferring hit shows (the wonderful The Pitmen Painters) to the small stage, this must be up there to win themselves some awards.
I have seen Peter Harrison, who plays the main character of Johnny 'Rooster' Byron, many times, but never so passionate, so up for it. He seemed so so comfortable on the stage, that it really felt it was about him, wrote for him almost (maybe I will be disappointed if I ever share a beer with him, to find out he is just a normal bloke like me..ha ha).
The play itself follows Johnny (think of Paddy Doherty (the Irish traveller, who won Big Brother) and his band of follows (again some superb acting from Stuart Laidler (Mr Parsons), Mitchell Labiak (Ginger), Christopher Goulding (Professor) and Steve Robertson (Wesley)) who are battling to stave off the final call of eviction from the wooded area in which they all congregate for parties, drug taking and that little bit of  wild living.
Johnny has adapted his lifestyle to fending for himself and is not going to give up without a fight. Even the many visits from officialdom doesn't worry him.
The story visits many of Johnny's tales, some believable, some not, of his life as the County Fairs top attraction. As a stuntman he pulled in the crowds from afar, but now living in his caravan, on land due for reclamation, he is struggling to get a grip of reality. His only hope is in the wizz and the spliffs that he peddles.
Trouble is never far away from him, but as a well versed man he always has an answer at hand. These answers are what he hopes to offer his eight year old son, as a gift for being such a wayward father.

Top marks to Tim Swinton for the wonderful stage design. It reminded me of the many music festivals that I have attended, with beer cans, litter and a good lived in mess filling the stage.
Sarah McLane who directed, was spot on with her words from the programme. This indeed was a night of unforgettable theatre.
Go and see it, cancel anything else.

Jerusalem runs until 5th May

Michael Hunter

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