Jerusalem is also an affecting work. Bitingly funny and extremely pertinent, it asks what it means to be English at a difficult time. “Why has ‘English’ become a dirty word with connotations with the far Right when it is all right to talk about Scottishness or Welshness?” Crook asks. Jerusalem, set on St George’s Day, explores what it means to be English today (*). “It’s not a response to the BNP,” he adds. “Jez is just a big fan of rural life. It’s a celebration of that life and the way that it is changing.”
(*) From a review:
AH, rural England - its pleasant pastures, rolling hills... drug-dealing wasters and identikit housing estates.
Jez Butterworth's startlingly brilliant new play is a tragic and hilarious vision of life in an English country community.
It's St George's Day and Johnny 'Rooster' Byron is the familiar rural rogue, a charismatic gypsy drunkard (a tremendous Mark Rylance) who charms bored youth with his drugs and tall tales. Except now he's faced with eviction from his woodland home and someone's after him with threats of a kicking.
Office star Mackenzie Crook’s loyal Ginger and Tom Brooke’s dreamer Lee are particularly impressive as Byron’s comrades, larger-than-life but carrying an authentic ring of druggie boredom and deprivation amid the grot of this brilliantly-realized glade.
And whether Byron is a modern day Bottom leading an anarchic carnival, or a troubled loser harbouring teenage girls, he is somehow redeemed by his evocation (however heartfelt or otherwise) of mythical giants and gypsy Kings.
Because behind the can-strewn turf and some bellyachingly good comic set pieces, his personality and myth-making motors a profoundly rich and complex story of England and the English, how we treat the land and our place in its myths and landscape.
And they tell us we can't have our Jerusalem (see here).