Jerusalem doesn’t quite resonate here the way it would in the UK

JERUSALEM by Jez Butterworth (Outside the March/Company Theatre/in association with Starvox Entertainment). At Streetcar Crowsnest (345 Carlaw). Runs to March.


JERUSALEM by Jez Butterworth (Outside the March/Company Theatre/in association with Starvox Entertainment). At Streetcar Crowsnest (345 Carlaw). Runs to March 17. $25-$65. crowstheatre.com. See listing. Rating: NNN

In the past couple of weeks, two shows acclaimed on Broadway opened in local productions. One, The Humans, is as effective as the original. Alas, the same magic isnt there for UK playwright Jez Butterworths Jerusalem.

Its not that the themes in the epic, three-act play arent interesting: the encroachment on natural land by greedy corporations the loss of a countrys mythology and the sinister tale of a charismatic, troubled man getting back at the society that rejects him by taking away its children, a la the Pied Piper.

But Butterworths play, which came to New York City with its mostly British cast still intact and featured a now legendary performance by Mark Rylance, is a very English play, and we dont have the same mythologies and stories about the forest that the Brits do, try as this cast might with their attempts at accents.

Still, theres lots to enjoy in this ambitious production co-produced by Outside the March and Company Theatre.

Director Mitchell Cushman and designers Nick Blais (sets), Andre du Toit (lights) and Richard Feren (sound) have created an immersive experience. The hall leading into the mainstage at Streetcar Crowsnest is now a forest pathway. Once inside, what seem like real trees grow out of the ground. Youll feel like youre part of a special event, from the laser-filled, booze-drinking pre-show to the thunderous effects that happen three-and-a-half hours later.

Jerusalems dangerously attractive lead, Johnny Rooster Byron (Kim Coates) emerges out of a naturalistic trailer in one of the cockiest, most watchable entrances this season.

From there he deals with the bureaucrats wanting to evict him by days end, a group of restless youths who look to him for stories and drugs, an ex-wife (Diana Donnelly) and their child and other outcasts drawn into his orbit.

Its easy to see this as a decline of England play, especially in light of Brexit. But the resonance of characters like Nicholas Campbells doddering professor and Daniel Kashs hypocritical pub owner, dont register here the way they might across the pond.

And the fine actor Philip Riccio seems miscast as Ginger, one of Roosters followers who might turn Judas.

Coates, making a return to the stage after decades in TV and film, captures Roosters danger and glamour but lacks the grace and poetry to conjure up a countrys myths and dreams and make you long for another time.

Thats asking a lot, I know, but I think its essential to make this difficult play succeed.

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