Friday, December 23, 2011

Now, caveats:

a) I'm on holiday so unnaturally good tempered

b) I love far-fetched and fanciful stories

c) I have a yearning for contemporary theatre that isn't just middle-class 'oh life is hard' angst served up with a side order of a drug slash alcohol problem to demonstrate an understanding of the 'urban' landscape

d) Stories of the Put Upon Misunderstood Putting A Brave Face On Things always clutch clawlike at my heart

e) And I could have been heavily influenced by the seventeen year old girl sat next to me in the theatre who was bouncing - actually bouncing - with enthusiasm before the show started. She was seeing it for the third time.

But put all of these things to one side for a second, remember I'm very vulnerable to a nice set and a nicely acted story and then consider the following.

Jerusalem was wonderful.

It's an innocuous enough story. A man living in a caravan on the outskirts of a village in Wiltshire is served up with an eviction notice by the council who want to build a new housing estate on 'his' land. He doesn't fancy that, thank you very much. And spends the rest of the play drunk and in denial.

But luckily accompanied by a ramshackle collection of glorious characters who all use this main man (Johnny Byron) for whatsoever they wish to use him for. Until he doesn't turn out to be any use to them anymore and they scarper.

The play begins with - in fact, I'm not even going to tell you. The opening - the pre-curtain up - was eerily beautiful. If I can one day be responsible for something half as lovely, I'll be a happy girl.

The set is a winnebago nestled in the forest, surrounded by junk. And hens! Live living hens strutted and clucked - albeit in a cage - behind the caravan throughout. And the thing is - I had an excellent stalls seat on account of the queueing situation but - the greater part of the audience won't have had the first idea that there was anything living on stage beyond the actors because of the sightlines. A grand indulgence.

The acting. Well, Mr Rylance was outstanding. A proper tour de force. Half of the audience rose in a shambolic standing ov at the (three hour) performance's end. And the poor chap's been at it for two years. Roaring and strutting and limping and captivating like the real proper showman that the script (perhaps) called for him to be.

Mackenzie Crook also featured. Not a great lure as far as I was concerned but let's take back all the mean thoughts I've ever had about him. He was tremendous too. As were a whole bunch of others, none of whom were dwarfed by Mr Rylance, which is important and an achievement and a tribute to them.

But what I liked so much was the story. The subject matter, to be precise. The 'what is happening to England?' or has, in fact, already happened to England, as civilisation steadily encroaches around us. The safety curtain has a huge St George's Cross slapped onto it. Which I found particularly interesting as the face of Mr Redmayne in the day's before Richard II had a huge St George's Cross slithered all over it in the Donmar's publicity materials.

Both plays presented opinions about the state of the country today - and how we do or don't cope - that are one million times more interesting than - well, how can I judge as I haven't seen it but, for example - a trilogy of plays about what it means to be pretty in today's society. (Miaow.)

But I suppose it's just a question of priorities.


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