Tag Archives: Mackenzie Crook

Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre, November 12 2011

17 Nov

Jerusalem – it’s one not to miss and one of the most astounding things you will ever see on a theatre stage. That’s what I’ve been told about Jez Butterworth’s play. Unfortunately I completely missed out on watching it during its first run in the West End. You can probably imagine how happy I was when I heard that it was returning for another run and that Mark Rylance was reprising his award winning role

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So what exactly is Jerusalem about? Seriously, I have no idea how to put it in words. It’s the story of an outsider (Johnny “Rooster” Byron) who lives illegally in a caravan on the edge of a village. But  it’s not the story of his life. It’s more of an insight in his way of living, his personality and the people that surround him. He supplies booze and drugs to the locals (even teenagers), hosts all night parties and generally does whatever he feels like. And he has just received notice from the authorities that he has to leave the land he has unlawfully poached. 

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There’s a nice litte feature in the programme entitled “Jez Butterworth on Jerusalem” which I read while waiting for the play to start:

 

“In 1994, I moved to Wiltshire and met a man who was banned from every pub in the village. I once picked him up and he was light as a feather. A month later I walked into him in the streets by mistake and it was like walking into a tree. Ten years earlier I worked on a market in St Albans, where a man walked past with a big ginger moustache, in a leather cowboy hat, boots and chaps, horse-brasses on his belt. He lived in a caravan behind Marks and Spencers and collected glasses in the pub. They tried to throw him him off his patch, but he refused to go. The night before the police came to evict him, he doused his home in petrol, burned it to the ground, and disappeared. Fifteen years later I broke a finger playing cricket, went to the hospital, where I met a man who told me he was there to sell his blood. It was a rare strain, and he was the last person in England who had it. Seventeen years earlier I worked in an old hotel kitchen as a kitchen porter, where the old Welsh waiter told me that the previous night he had had a dream that he had been kidnapped by Nigerian traffic wardens. Ten years later I had a conversation with a publican over a hedge, who wpt and told me he was trapped, that he could never, ever, set foot in his pub again. Then he went back there and worked another fifteen years. A year earlier I’d sat in a village hall and watched the outgoing May Queen hand her crown to the new May Queen. The Old Queen was very cool and aloof, until the moment came, whereupon she burst into tears, and ran out. Ten years earlier, to avoid doing cross country in the rain, each Thursday I visited an old lady who lived near my school. Each time she opened the door she would say “Hello Maureen”. Twenty years later I met a man in a pub who killed 200 cows a day. He was 64 years old and had never left the West Country. In March 1980 a girl in my class at school went out to the dual carriageway, flagged down a lorry and ended up in Scotland. On June 1 2003 I was driving through rural Dorset when I came round a bend and there was a hand-painted sign that said “Rooster’s Wood. Keep Out.” The next day on the A30 outside Upavon, just past the Little Chef, I met a giant who said he built Stonehenge. That is, if you believe him…”

 

I had no idea what the man was talking about!

I read the same text again after watching the play and suddenly it all made sense. Well, more or less at least. The whole play is still rather confusing and definitely not your typical every day theatre experience. But then that’s one of the reasons it’s so very special. Jerusalem shatters the myth of England as a “green and pleasant land” (the plays name is taken from a poem by William Blake that describes England as just that). Instead is puts the focus on the outcasts – Rooster and his friends – who basically sit around all day unwilling to accept or deal with any change. There’s Lee, for example, who is about to emigrate to Australia with little to no money but makes it clear throughout the play that he can’t see himself leaving at all. Or there’s Davey who has never even been beyond the borders of the village.

The play wanders on the ground of comedy for the first 2 acts and shows a disturbing and very graphic picture of violence in act 3.

 

Mark Rylance gives the performance of a lifetime as Rooster. I wasn’t sure anyone could live up to the hype surrounding this play but he certainly did. I would go as far as to say he even exceeded any expectation I had prior to watching Jerusalem. He plays the eccentric character with such an intensity and passion that it’s hard to take your eyes off him.

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Mackenzie Crook (probably best known for playing the one eyes pirate in the Pirates of the Caribbean triology and for British TV show The Office) plays Rooster’s friend Ginger, an underdog and aspiring DJ (he is in fact an unemployed plasterer) who is constantly teased by Rooster and the others in the group. This is the second play I’ve seen Mackenzie Crook in and once again he showed off his great acting skills. He is absolutely perfectly cast in this play and I enjoyed his performance tremendously.

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The rest of the cast featured Alan David as the Professor, Max Baker as Wesley, Aimee-Ffion Edwards as Phaedra, Johnny Flynn as Lee, Geraldine Hughes as Dawn, Danny Kirrane as Davey, Sophie McShera as Pea, Charlotte Mills as Tanya, Sarah Moyle as Ms Fawcett, Harvey Robinson as Mr. Parsons and Barry Sloane as Troy Whitworth most of whom have been in the show since the first run at the Royal Court Theatre in 2009.

 

I’m still not sure I have come to terms with the whole play completely. Although we see the characters just sitting around and talking for most of the show it still is an extremely complex piece of theatre that definitely gets you thinking. 

If you can get a ticket please, please go and watch this one. It’s something that will stay in your head for a long time. Plus every theatregoer should experience something as pure and brilliant as this at least once. This is the most powerful new play I have seen in my life and Mark Rylance performance is the most enthralling thing I’ve ever witnessed on a theatre stage. Definitely not to be missed and beyond amazing! 

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Catch Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre until January 14th 2012. For info and tickets go to http://www.jerusalemtheplay.com

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Haven’t I seen you on the telly?

10 Sep

I only started this whole blog thing a few days ago after being told by a lovely performer friend that I should have one. We were in this pub in Soho along with her boyfriend just before watching Jersey Boys and were talking about this and that. And whenever it came to anything theatre related I would skip in a “Oh, but that show is going into that theatre” or “He finishes in that show in a month”. Just random theatre news stuff really – for some reason I’m quite good at remembering things like that (I wish I would have been that good at remembering vocabulary back in my school days!!). So in the end she said “You should have a theatre blog!!”. Which brings me to the here and now. I’m sitting outside with my notebook. It’s a lovely day, apparantly the last day of summer if the weather forecast is right for once. And I’m thinking “Now that I’ve got this blog I actually have to be interesting!”. I do feel the pressure I promise you!

And since I have no show to review at this point (unless you want me to write about shows I’ve seen more than 2 weeks ago which I will if I get asked to do so!) I thought I’d squeeze in a piece about theatre and celebrities. Because lets face it, the Jude Law’s and Keira Knightley’s and Hugh Jackman’s of this world are a part of theatre life. More and more movie and tv actors (and sometimes even popstars) take the step onto a theatre stage.

I’ve had the chance to see quite a few well known people in plays and musicals. And yes, there have been shows I have gone to see especially because I wanted to see “that famous person” in it. It’s obvious producers like to put someone famous in a show as this almost guarantees an increase in ticket sales. And theatre is after all a business.
My biggest fear whenever I hear of a celebrity taking on a part in a show is that ticket sales are the only reason for casting that person. Who cares about talent? He/She is going to put bums on seats! So honestly, all the time I go and see a show that has someone more or less famous in it I’m filled with a kind of hesitation and I do try and lower my expectations. Of course, there are exceptions. When I went to see A Steady Rain with Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig on Broadway (front row seat I might add) I was over the moon with excitement! That was the theatrical event of the year for me and I had been raving about it for weeks and weeks before the actual day. No hesitation or low expectations – I was about to see Hugh Jackman on stage and I expected him to blow me away! And he did I can assure you. Both him and Daniel Craig were beyond amazing. And yes, I did meet them both and yes, I did get a pic with Mr. Jackman and yes, I was the happiest girl on the planet in that moment!

But those exceptions aside a celebrity on stage always fills me with worry. Will he/she be able to act properly, on a stage, in front of a live audience, with no chance to just shout “Cut!” and do the whole scene again?

Maybe I’ve just been lucky but so far I can honestly report I haven’t witnessed any complete disasters in that department. I admit I will never be fond of Duncan James’ Billy Flynn and I found his Warner a bit bland (but actually missed him when Richard Fleeshman took over – funny enough I loved Richard’s performance in Ghost!). But there has been no one who’s performance I really disliked. Actually a lot of famous people have surprised me by being proper stage actors and actresses. There was Daniel Radcliffe in Equus. Who thought little Harry Potter had it in him to take on a part like that? Yes, it was a bit of a shocker to see the guy run around the stage naked for what seemed like an eternity but I think he did really well in that play and I’m happy I got to see him.
Christian Slater in One Flew Over The Cockoo’s Nest – quite a dark part in a not very happy play and he was brilliant. Although I have to add that Mackenzie Crook (you know, that guy from The Office and the pirate with the fake eye from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) stole the show for me. Amazing acting!
There was Josh Hartnett in Rain Man. I expected a pretty face and I got that plus a proper stage actor. He knew exactly where to pause and how to hold the audience’s attention.
Ben Barnes in Birdsong – pure charisma on stage! Matthew Fox in In A Forest Dark And Deep – there’s definitely more to that guy than Jack from Lost. Ethan Hawke in A Winter’s Tale – he can even sing, I didn’t know that!
Jeff Goldblum in Speed-the-Plow and Prisoner Of Second Avenue – two great performances which I enjoyed tremendously. Rowan Atkinson in Oliver – such a versatile actor who played Fagin with just the right mixture of humor and danger. John Stamos in Bye Bye Birdie on Broadway – the show was a small disaster (cheap set, not so great child actors and the whole thing was rather tacky) but it did keep me entertained and that was mainly due to John. He was funny and he could sing. Gillian Anderson in A Doll’s House – I’ve been watching the X-Files right from the start (I can still throw random quotes from the show at you without thinking about it) so I was a little biased. But that woman, as tiny as she is, has such a huge amount of talent that it didn’t even occur to me to see Scully from The X-Files. I saw Nora from Henrik Ibsen’s play.
Ewan McGregor in Guys and Dolls – the man can sing and dance and act. I might add that he wasn’t my favourite Sky Masterson (Norman Bowman and Sebastien Torkia share that throne) but I definitely enjoyed his performance a lot. Jude Law in Hamlet – what a breathtaking performance and I’m usually not someone who really enjoys Shakespeare.

Ok, not every performance was flawless and amazing. David Schwimmer in Some Girls – the guy did well but basically he was just Ross from Friends on that stage. It fit the character he portrayed but it didn’t convince me of him as a stage actor. After all this was no real challenge, he’d had years to perfect Ross. Keira Knightley in The Misanthrope was alright but nothing outstanding if you ask me (but then the play itself wasn’t my thing either). And David Hasselhoff in Chicago – I’m not going to say anything nasty about The Hoff! He was my childhood hero (there, I’ve said it!!) and I will always have a soft spot for him. And his Billy Flynn was entertaining and not that bad. He certainly seemed to enjoy being on stage. It’s just once you’ve seen people like Alex Bourne play the part you know how it should be done.

The one thing I don’t like is putting wannabe clebrities on stage in the hope of selling more tickets which mostly happens in musical theatre. There are talented people out there for those parts. People who have worked hard to succeed in the business and who deserve a chance to shine. And yet they get pushed aside by so called “names” who often lack the voice and the skills for the part they play.
So, I say yes to celebrities on stage if they have what it takes. And from my experience the really famous people are often the ones with the real talent. Only very few less known celebs (but still celebs as people will say “Haven’t I seen her/him on the telly?” when they see their picture or read their name) have convinced me of being worthy of their part in a West End show. And that always leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth as I know those people are standing on that stage just because they are who they are and nothing more. As much as I do understand the need to sell a show to Joe Public it shouldn’t be necessary to do so by putting names on stage. The aim should be to produce shows that sell because the audience wants to see the show and not “so and so” in the show. It’s possible! Look at Wicked or Jersey Boys for example.

Sadly the general public often expects to get something “special” (and who can blame them for 65 quid) and in these days that often involves well known people on stage. I really wish people would start to admire and respect the theatre more and actually enjoy being entertained by a good story, a good score and a talented cast. Well, I can always dream, right?

And by the way, I didn’t mention Kevin Spacey in this blog because let’s face it: Kevin Spacey may be a celebrity but he’s also Kevin Spacey! The man is an acting genius and clearly belongs on a theatre stage.