Review: Jerusalem

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“I’m a heavy stone, me. You try and pick me up, I’ll break your spine.”

This week in the Drama Barn, DramaSoc presents Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth, directed by Jessie Nixon and assisted by Matthew Edwards. An unrelenting play with themes of human attachment, disillusioned youth and damaged relationships, this production is raw and highly emotive. Jessie Nixon and Kirsty Henley-Washford should be very proud of their beautifully imaginative set: a caravan, flags and garden furniture jostle for space on the authentic grass with a demolished television and mythical drum. The attention to detail, from the rust on the caravan to the cigarette butts in the dirt make for a convincingly staged performance.

Fizz Margereson opens the play singing the hymn Jerusalem, appearing as the vulnerable and ethereal Phaedra Cox in a pink dress and fairy wings. Her haunting gaze and isolation juxtaposed with the hedonistic rave, complete with strobe lighting (Esme Pitts) sets the premise for moments of surreal monologue side by side with bleak realism. Jared More’s Rooster was excellently paced, engaging and charismatic to the last line. Choice moments of silence served to convey his commanding stage presence, and his interaction with different characters was well executed, particularly during the scene with Dawn (Evie Jones) and Marky, his son (Elvie Broom). A couple of articulation problems near the beginning of the play did little to hinder a thoroughly electric and at times visceral performance. Sometimes the low level sounds of the fairground were distracting, and silence would have added greater poignancy to his otherwise sensitively communicated monologues.

Her haunting gaze and isolation juxtaposed with the hedonistic rave, complete with strobe lighting sets the premise for moments of surreal monologue side by side with bleak realism

Although the strength of some lines was lost, particularly during the curse near the end, this was more than compensated by the energetic and seamless cast interaction of Davey (Kell Chambers), Lee (Christian Loveless), Tanya (Mia Hamilton), Pea (Kirsty Henley-Washford, Ginger (George Rayson), and the Professor (Martha Owen). Each actor brought something individual to the play’s overriding sense of futility; directionless promiscuity and wanderlust did not alleviate the resigned acceptance of mediocrity perpetuated by Wesley (Matthew Ingram) and Davey. Moments of comedy were well timed and and both a visual and audible delight, particularly from Sam Hill and Evie Jones playing Parsons and Fawcett respectively.

At times the accent slipped entirely from certain characters, and background interaction detracted from the main dialogue, causing some of the scenes to have an unnecessarily chaotic feel. However, Sam Hill’s menacing re-entrance as Troy Whitworth completely changed this dynamic to an icy dread. His exchange with Rooster reveals uncomfortable relationships in the play, both his abusive one with Phaedra and Rooster’s position as the ridiculed father figure to the disillusioned youths of Flintock. It was a brave decision to include only one interval in a nearly three hour long play, and although the broadly consistent energy of the cast was compelling, it is a long time to be fully receptive to dialogue that is laced with mythological and astute contemporary allegories. Overall an excellently directed, hard-hitting production, well worth seeing but not for those seeking a barrel of laughs.

Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth, directed by Jessie Nixon, is running from Friday 3rd June – Sunday 5th June at The Drama Barn at the University of York. Tickets are available on the YUSU website and will be available on the door for £5. 

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