|Mark Rylance as Johnny Byron|
Review Round-up: Rooster Rylance Struts Again
Date: 11 February 2010
Jez Butterworth’s much lauded and multi award-winning play Jerusalem transferred to the West End last night (10 February 2010, previews from 28 January), following hot on the heels of fellow Royal Court success story Enron (See Review Round-up, 3 Feb 2010).
The focal point of the play, which is directed by Ian Rickson, is Johnny Byron (Mark Rylance), a limping, caravan-dwelling ex-stuntman, all-round village rogue and modern-day Pied Piper.
It’s St George's Day, the morning of the local county fair, and Johnny is a wanted man. The council officials want to serve him an eviction notice, his children want their dad to take them to the fair, Troy Whitworth wants to give him a serious kicking and a motley crew of mates want his ample supply of drugs and alcohol.
Rylance, who's already won an Evening Standard and Critics Circle Award for his performance (and is shortlisted for Whatsonstage.com and Olivier Awards), got another raft of rave reviews to add to his bulging scrapbook. Whatsonstage.com's Michael Coveney dubbed Byron his “greatest ever modern role and one of the great performances of our time,” while the Independent’s Paul Taylor described his effort as “incomparable.”
The Guardian's Michael Billington encouraged audiences who've already seen the play at the Royal Court to make the trip to the Apollo, where the play “gains immeasurably from a second viewing”. He also mentions the additional cast members, declaring Gerard Horan, Mackenzie Crook, and Danny Kirrane "first-rate." The play can now undoubtedly be considered one of the greatest of recent times, a “magical” must-see.
Michael Coveney on Whatsonstage.com (five stars) – “It’s back and it’s better than ever. Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem is deservedly sweeping the best play awards … The Shakespearean anti-hero provides Mark Rylance with his greatest ever modern role … He rises to the challenge magnificently. This is now one of the great performances of our time: sly, funny, reprehensible, big-hearted, barrel-chested, technically awesome and physically monumental … The play is rich, long, full of great speeches and crude incident … You’ll be astonished and overjoyed to find this in the West End.”
Paul Taylor in the Independent (five stars) – “Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem, beautifully directed by Ian Rickson and starring the incomparable Mark Rylance, proves to be, if anything, even better than its award-laden, ecstatic publicity suggests … Butterworth's play is liberatingly funny and doubly subversive … Rylance creates the illusion that he has physically reinvented himself to play this tough-bodied broken-boned figure. But he's so in tune with the spirit of the role that it is as if he has co-created the character … Rickson's cast are uniformly superb in all their cranky idiosyncrasies. But Rylance is in a league of his own.”
Michael Billington in The Guardian (four stars) – “Jez Butterworth's play gains immeasurably from a second viewing … Mark Rylance conveys the inner solitude of the public performer … Praise is also due to Ian Rickson's production … Gerard Horan as a publican, Mackenzie Crook as a wannabe DJ and Danny Kirrane as the treacherous Davey are all first-rate. As for Rylance, there is great ambivalence in his portrait: he's hypnotic.”
Henry Hitchings in The Evening Standard (five stars) – “Jez Butterworth’s deliciously wild vision of contemporary England pulses with energy and poetry, and here seems imbued with an extra shot or three of pungent humour … Mark Rylance thrillingly inhabits the role of Johnny Byron … The other performances are excellent. Tom Brooke makes an especially vivid impression … Mackenzie Crook is suitably forlorn as Johnny’s useless pal Ginger. Ian Rickson’s direction is beautifully paced … Butterworth’s text remains digressive but within its baggy corpulence there’s a satisfying tautness, and its world view is refreshing, humane, touching and wickedly funny … Still, the production belongs to Rylance … it’s his mixture of mischievous physicality and pastoral wisdom that guarantees the success of this profane, nourishing, freewheeling and frequently mesmerising piece of theatre. ”
Dominic Maxwell in The Times – “It’s mystical but matter-of-fact; rude but rueful … There’s something magical about Ian Rickson’s production … he is blessed in having Mark Rylance, the most exciting stage actor of his generation, playing one of the juiciest roles in living memory. If this was only the Rylance show, it would still be a hell of a night out. He croaks, he jokes, he imposes. He’s hilarious, he’s heart-breaking. He’s naturalism; he’s music hall … Jez Butterworth’s script shines with self-knowing wit and compassion. Rickson’s direction is so good that you don’t notice it: simply looks and feels like real life, but with all the boring bits taken out. A hilarious, enchanting, affecting evening.”
- Alex Mangini & Theo Bosanquet
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