first night


Sophie Williams is blown away by Thrust Stage's production of 'Jerusalem'


Jerusalem is a Jez Butterworth’s ‘in yer face’ comedy that became a sell-out sensation on its London debut in 2009.  It is a play rich in wit and sparkling dialogue but it’s a certainly challenge to pull off - being three hours long, dialogue-heavy and moving at a leisurely pace. Action is sparse save for character interactions, so there is immense pressure on every member of the (relatively small) cast to hold the audience’s attention. Would Thrust Stage do justice to this controversial masterpiece and replicate its success here in Durham?


Set in rural Wiltshire, the Jerusalem takes place over a single day at the annual County fair. It centres on Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron: a crass, mendacious yet strangely endearing gypsy and drug-dealer, who surrounds himself with party-hard youths. Those who are sensitive to swearing be warned – there is effing and blinding in abundance, along with an unsparing use of the ‘c-word’! It’s all part of the shock factor, however, there are plenty of laughs and surprises in store, so don’t be put off!


Attention to detail in the acting was just astonishing. Every cast member, without exception, played their part with gusto, and seemed very conscious of their character’s body language and movement about the stage. There were a couple of occasions where a line was a little quiet or muffled, probably owing to the thickness of the authentic and consistent Westcountry accents (as a native to Cornwall I can verify this!) For the most part, however, everyone projected himself or herself well.


Michael Forde was absolutely flawless as the gregarious protagonist, and utterly convincing in capturing Rooster’s multifaceted personality. Equally brilliant was Joe Skelton in his role as Ginger, Rooster’s skeptical yet doggedly loyal companion, and he sustained amazing charisma and energy throughout the show. Alex Morgan was particularly amusing as the eccentric Professor, and special mention must also go to Daniel Brown in the role of Marky, who stole the show somewhat from the elder thespians! Heather Cave as Phaedra sang beautifully, and her dance with Rooster in the third act is especially poignant, contrasting well against the menacing Troy (played by Xander Drury).  


A lot of care and effort has clearly gone into the technical aspects of the show too. The sound effects and music worked well and the set itself is incredible. The stage is covered in real turf, littered with a LOT of props it’s a wonder the actors manage not to trip over anything! The ‘caravan’ in particular is a work of art, and there’s even a live goldfish! The result is a very immersive experience that will make you feel as though you really are in a copse of ‘Rooster’s Wood’ rather than the Assembly Rooms!


It is not often that a reviewer has the privilege or pleasure of witnessing a performance so polished that there is almost nothing to criticise. This, however, was one of those times. Thrust Stage truly has a tour-de-force of talent that kept the audience hooked from start to finish. Hats off to Dann and producers Meade and Hunter - Jerusalem is without doubt the most impressive piece of theatre I’ve seen in my three years at Durham and if you only go to one show this year, make sure it’s this one! 

29 November 2013

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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