It was the talk of the town when success at the Royal Court downstairs led to a stint in the West End and then eventually Broadway for an extended run. For me Jez Butterworth's award winning play Jerusalem was the one that got away. The one where I was never quite early enough to get day seats.
But it's back in the West End and ha! it didn't get away this time. Of course there is always the danger that it doesn't quite live up to expectations after such a big build up.
It's set in small town Wiltshire. The central character Johnny 'Rooster' Byron (Mark Rylance) lives in a caravan near a new housing estate, deals drugs and booze to the local teens and, when he isn't telling outlandish stories of fairies, giants and birthing tales worthy of Greek mythology spends his time getting barred from pubs and imbibing a variety of narcotics and alcoholic.
He might be an acquired taste for some but I warmed to Rooster quite quickly. There is a perverse truth in his philosophy that the kids are better off hanging out with him rather than roaming the streets and if he didn't give them alcohol they'd get it elsewhere.
They are a rag tag bunch of obnoxious and naive teens with the addition of Ginger (MacKenzie Crook) the butt of jokes and who just hasn't grown up. And then there is The Professor (Alan David) an eccentric elderly gent who is probably suffering from dementia or a grief induced breakdown and local publican Wesley (Max Baker).
Despite being prone to violent verbal and physical outbursts people naturally gravitate to Rooster's caravan where there always seems to be something entertaining happening. There is drinking and drug taking of course and Rooster tells his tales and smashes things up. He seems to have a band of loyal followers and friends albeit mainly underage.
Jerusalem didn't disappoint in fact it was very good. It has a script that crackles with wit and humour, capturing a piece of England that is both alien and familiar. It is funny and silly but has an underlying darkness and poignant sting in its tale that gives it depth.
This is the first thing I've seen Mark Rylance in and he's already elbowing his way towards my 'move heaven to see' list.
I'm so glad Jersusalem came back to London and that I got a chance to see it. (Might have to try again for a day seat). I found myself rising with everyone else at the end and I'm normally extremely picky about what I give a standing ovation for.
It's getting five stars. Loved it.
Was surprised to find a direct link in the Alan David was in Ready When You Are Mr Gill which Mr W appeared in back in his early career. There is, what I think is a good secondary link in that Johnny Flynn was in The Heretic with Juliet Stevenson who was in The Hour with Mr W.