One of the highlights of the theatrical year, the return of Mark Rylance in Jez Butterworth’s acclaimed play Jerusalem, has opened at the Apollo Theatre in London.
Also in the cast are Kemi Awoderu (Pea), Alan David (The Professor), Shane David-Joseph (Mr Parsons), Gerard Horan (Wesley), Ed Kear (Davey), Charlotte O’Leary (Tanya), Indra Ové (Dawn), Jack Riddiford (Lee), Barry Sloane (Troy Whitworth), Niky Wardley (Linda Fawcett) and Eleanor Worthington-Cox (Phaedra). Kobe Champion-Norville, Jesse Manzi and Matteo Philbert share the role of Marky and understudies are Abigail Green, Amanda Gordon, Callum Sheridan-Lee, Greg Snowden and Anthony Taylor.
The original creative team have returned too, including director Ian Rickson, designer ULTZ, lighting designer Mimi Jordan Sherin, composer Stephen Warbeck, sound designer Ian Dickinson for Autograph and casting director Amy Ball CDG.
The return of Jerusalem further anchors Mark Rylance as one of, if not the, greatest living British actor, a theory backed up by plenty of the critics. Read reviews from the Times, Telegraph, Guardian, TimeOut and more.
Jerusalem plays the Apollo Theatre until 7 August 2022.
Jerusalem is sadly sold out for its run at the Apollo Theatre, but read more about Jerusalem here.
"Mark Rylance’s riveting return as ‘Rooster’ Byron"
"Problematic gags limit the power of Jez Butterworth’s layered drama about myths and Englishness but the lead performance still astonishes"
"Its language predates #MeToo and Black Lives Matter – and it shows. There is a limp joke about dressing up in a burqa, another about Nigerian traffic wardens. There are references to women as “slappers”, “bitches” and fat wives. Byron boasts of his conquests and talks of pinching bums, while Ginger states: “I don’t actually have GCSE maths but I do have a great big hairy cock and balls.” Bizarrely, this gets some laughs on opening night."
"The play’s ideas around myth and identity are lyrical but do not fully cohere. Ultz’s astonishing set opens up to bacchanalian detritus outside Rooster’s caravan – empty bottles, a mucky sofa, a disco ball tied to a tree and even live chickens. But it is uncomfortable to see the St George’s Cross emblazoned on the curtain at the start and then a flag hung around the back of the caravan. That flag has, since Jerusalem’s first staging in 2009, continued to be associated with the far right, and the play’s bigger dewy-eyed ideas around Englishness carry a queasy proximity to the romanticised narrative that has been co-opted by the right.
"But any disagreement around the treatment of its themes cannot take away from its drama and the soaring central performance. Is it the greatest play of our times? Not in my view. But Rylance’s Rooster is surely the greatest performance of the century."
"Mark Rylance lets the old magic flow once again as the stage performance of our lifetimes returns"
"I doubt the legacy of ‘Jerusalem’ the play is really going to be settled until Mark Rylance leaves it, because the power of Rooster Byron as a character is so hard to separate from his performance (there have been smaller productions around the world, but nothing approaching the scale of this one). Which is just fine: all the endless discussion of ‘Jerusalem’ feels a bit irrelevant when you’re confronted by the elemental reality of the thing itself. Leave it to future generations to decide where ‘Jerusalem’ goes on a list. For a few months, it has returned to our dark, satanic mills. Come, you giants!"
"Mark Rylance mesmerises in one of the best plays you will ever see"
"A thousand playwrights try to write the sort of Chekhovian tragicomedy in which characters in one location chat over the course of a day — St George’s Day in the fictional village of Flintock in this instance — until, whoops-a-daisy, the story is done and everyone’s lives are changed for ever. Only Butterworth and his reunited team (the director Ian Rickson, the designer Ultz, and a fine cast, including an excellent Mackenzie Crook and some of the other original actors) has found a way to make that format vivid rather than meandering."
"Written long before Brexit, Jerusalem nails an English bloody-mindedness, a need to be free. Rooster is too rich a character to be merely emblematic, though. He ends up hobbled, his situation hopeless, his desires undimmed. And Rylance is mesmerising. It’s not the neatest play you’ll ever see, but it is one of the best plays you’ll ever see."
"13 years on, time has only deepened Jez Butterworth’s modern classic"
"You could watch Rylance’s performance every night and still find new dimensions"
"Rooster is a charismatic, anarchic spirit: a perma-drunk yarn-spinner who supplies drugs and dance music to teenagers at his woodland caravan in Wiltshire. If anything, age has deepened the grain of Rylance’s overwhelming performance. And the questions Butterworth asked about national identity back in 2009 have only become more urgent."
"There’s also a freewheeling delight in language and storytelling throughout, Byron unspooling tall tales about his being born complete with a cloak, a dagger and a bullet between his fully-formed teeth, or being kidnapped by four Nigerian traffic wardens in Marlborough. In one early scene Rylance and a hangdog Mackenzie Crook – returning to the role of wannabe DJ Ginger, all the more sad now for being middle aged – delightedly bat the word “fracas” around like a shuttlecock."
"Mark Rylance is unforgettable in a triumphant revival"
"The actor gives a mesmerising turn as he reprises his role as Johnny “Rooster” Byron alongside Mackenzie Crook"
"Rickson’s production beautifully blends every shimmer and shiver: betrayals and small acts of spite rip holes in the camaraderie, the cowardice and petty nastiness of disappointing, circumscribed lives."
"Butterworth’s play, rooted in England’s ancient past and reaching into its inglorious present, is steeped in myths. Well, here’s one you can believe in: this is rich, haunting theatre – and Rylance is, once again, unforgettable."
"Sensational Mark Rylance creates true magic on stage – Do not miss"
" It's been 13 years since Mark Rylance debuted in Jez Butterworth's extraordinary theatrical tour de force and (was there any doubt?) he has created real magic once again. The 62-year-old star was dancing with exuberant joy, overwhelmed with emotion, at the curtain call on opening night - and the roaring audience felt exactly the same. This is what theatre is all about. Just over three hours fly by like a heady dream."
"Mark Rylance still shines as juicy Johnny 'Rooster' Byron in the thrillingly well-written and almost magical Jerusalem"
"It’s thrillingly well written and lets the magic rip in Byron’s massively tall stories: like the one about the giant he once met near a Little Chef on the A14 who built Stonehenge; or the four Nigerian traffic wardens who kidnapped him in Marlborough."
"Ian Rickson’s direction judges the comedy perfectly and the leafy glade of a set (with real trees) is a design triumph by Ultz."
"Mark Rylance’s Rooster makes a stunning return in Jerusalem"
"Jez Butterworth’s drama is exhilarating, dazzling and darker than ever in a revival at the Apollo Theatre, London"
"Ian Rickson’s exquisitely modulated staging has the same brilliant, expansive energy as it did a decade ago, but its dark undercurrents are more disturbing than ever. It plays out into a different context: into a country ragged with argument and disputation, that has seen Brexit, rising racism, culture wars and the growth of performative patriotism. Into, too, a world that has seen #MeToo and Black Lives Matter, where the stories we tell — and who gets to tell them — feel more significant than ever."
"... it’s simply a wonderful, wonderful piece of theatre. Combining the tightness of the classical Greek dramatic unities with an impression of bagginess that makes time feel elastic, the script is often blisteringly funny, relishes storytelling and skilfully shifts register to something much more profound and tragic."
"Time hasn’t ravaged Mark Rylance’s triumphant return"
"Butterworth’s disenchanted characters, with their irrepressible surreal comic irreverence, are not heroes, because England even more so than the England of 13 years ago doesn’t allow them to be."
"It’s also one of the funniest plays you’ll ever see, its dialogue effortlessly quicksilver and true, its 10-year-old cultural references still as fresh as last week. Rickson’s new cast slots in perfectly alongside the old, while Rylance is as good as he’s even been."
"It remains phenomenal"
"Thirteen years on, Jerusalem remains an extraordinary experience anchored by an incredible performance from Mark Rylance."
"Jerusalem is the greatest play and Mark Rylance’s performance the greatest performance of the year. Of the decade. Of the 21st century."
"Mark Rylance still rules the kingdom"
"This revival of Jez Butterworth's masterpiece, first staged in 2009, remains a crucial theatrical rite"
"None of the erstwhile comic – or indeed lyrical - impact is lost. Rylance’s waggling eyebrows, mystified stares and quiet burr that can shift into a roar transfix, as before. He’s older, inevitably: 62. Physical stiffness is more manifest, but that seems intended and artistically valuable – you can credit that this former dare-devil has, at various times, broken every bone in his body.
"And, as much as Byron comes to resemble an indestructible spirit of bucolic misrule, Rylance’s pronouncedly hobbling, rooster-ish gait – puffed chest contorted – signals that he’s running out of road. The three-hour action, traversing St George’s Day and the annual Flintock Fair, builds towards a twilight denouement of lonely mortal intimations and sacrificial reckoning."
"In ‘Jerusalem,’ a Once-in-a-Lifetime Performance, Again"
"Mark Rylance is back in a role that won him a Tony more than a decade ago. But this London production isn’t just coasting on past kudos."
"There’s mighty, and then there’s Mark Rylance in “Jerusalem,” a performance so powerfully connected to its part that it feels almost superhuman. That’s as it should be for a play about a larger-than-life character named Johnny Byron, who demands an entirely fearless actor, and has one in Rylance."
"Mark Rylance returns for a dark, potent revival of Jez Butterworth’s 2009 play"
"There’s a real cruelty to the Englishness of ‘Jerusalem’, which has returned to the West End with its original star"
"Jerusalem is an exercise in myth-making, one that’s equally in love with the legends of Old England and modern tales of drunken derring-do. Perhaps it overly romanticises its drug-peddling hero, but with Rylance in the role, its spell is irresistible."