Tag Archives: Helen Tonkin


31 Aug

I don’t write reviews. But I always include a bit of evaluation. (People seem to like it. I guess it’s a way of looking back at the production, instead of forward to how the production could inform your life.)

I’ll get it out of the way to begin with:

Helen Tonkin’s production of Jez Butterworth’s play Jerusalem is superb theatre. It’s brilliantly acted. Nicholas Eadie, as Rooster, gives a mesmerizing performance, and he’s supported by a top cast.

The play is very funny – and deeply thought provoking.

Photo by Matthias Engesser

Photo by Matthias Engesser

And my last comment might also help explain the popularity of evaluation. It’s easier to write.

Jerusalem is a very rich play. It’s one I find difficult to come to terms with.

(And so what follows is probably rather shallow. In my defense, I direct readers to my article ‘Why being a reviewer is tough’ – https://theatrered.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/why-being-a-reviewer-is-tough/ )

Jerusalem is very English; not in the sense that it’s somehow typical of English plays, but because it explores English-ness. I suspect it’s part of that foreign country’s culture wars.

But I don’t mean it’s not relevant here.

Jerusalem is an exploration of reaction. And that happens everywhere.

Threatened with eviction by representatives of the local council, Rooster refuses to budge. He’s told the law requires him to vacate, the English law. But it’s not his law, because it’s not his England.

Rooster connects with a deeper, older tradition. It’s as though he believes merry old England has been lost. And to underline the point, the play is set on St George’s Day, the day of the local fair, with its May Queen and its Morris dancing, and other pathetic corruptions of a distant past.

Rooster is reminiscent of Falstaff and, like Shakespeare’s creation, he has a semi-loyal entourage. One of them, Lee (played with engaging vulnerability by Brynn Loosemore), is off to Australia. The decision has been made, but it’s troubling. Another of Rooster’s followers, Davey, asserts he’ll never leave England. With perfectly pitched cockiness, Alex Norton as Davey says, ‘Travel to Land’s End, and you’re eff’n close to France. And then after that it’s just country after country. What’s that about?’*

And the play evokes a deeper tradition still. There’s talk of fairies, and giants, and druids, and Stonehenge.

Rooster is a lovable and entertaining raconteur, but he’s not an answer to the challenges of modernity. He avoids dealing with the State by dealing drugs. And despite the threat looming throughout the play he does nothing to try to avert it. He’s a victim rather than a champion.

Jerusalem is an exploration of reaction. Reactionary attitudes are those that say the present is troubling and the past was better.

And, of course, the past is better.

Regardless of whether we share its values, it can no longer trouble us with the need for present action.

Veronica Kaye


Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth

New Theatre til 14 Sept



* If my memory has failed me, apologies to Jez Butterworth.