First Preview Jerusalem?

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Smaxie
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First Preview Jerusalem?#26
Posted: 4/3/11 at 9:34am
For all of its Britishisms, I feel Jerusalem is a particularly relevant play in America for the following reason: it's about freedom of an individual versus a society that would stamp out the wild, the natural, the untamed. For all of our vaunted "freedom" in America, we do the same thing and fear the "otherness" of people not like us.

There are some things in the play that will resonate more for UK audiences: the hymn "Jerusalem" does not have the same resonance for a US audience as it would in the UK, but it is sung at the top of the show and referred to at points throughout the play. It refers to a mythic visit of Jesus in the English country ("And did those feet in ancient times walk upon England's mountain green"...) It goes on to mention the "dark Satanic mills" of the Industrial Revolution. It yearns to rebuild paradise out of a country that may have lost its way. Is it not possible to see how that can be relevant to a US audience as well?

St. George's Day is also not something we instantly know much about here - but all that needs to be known in viewing the play is that the day is marked by country fairs (with one of the characters dressed up in the garb of a Morris dancer, a sort of folk dancing with a mystical element to it). It's not dissimilar to the country fairs that dot the landscape when you travel a bit outside of New York City.

Johnny Rooster Byron aggrandizes his history to the point that its hard to separate fact from fable. It is part of what the character is all about. While the play deals in the ancient mystic English folklore tradition, with its setting in Wiltshire not too far from the prehistoric site of Stonehenge, we certainly have figures throughout American history who have mythologized their own pasts, to the point that one has no way of knowing where truth ends and fiction begins. (I thought for example of Arthur Laurents saying Gypsy Rose Lee was "allergic to the truth" and that she told him that her story was so vaunted that anything he came up with for his book would seem just as authentic).

I think part of the wonder of going to the theatre is to be taken somewhere you've never been before and to be in company of people you don't know and to come out with something that makes you understand maybe a little bit more about the world around us. I was at Jerusalem last night and feel that it's as great a play, production and leading performance as anything I've seen in over 40 years of theatregoing. I think any serious theatregoer should not miss it at any cost.

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.
Updated On: 4/3/11 at 09:34 AM
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Michael Bennett
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First Preview Jerusalem?#27
Posted: 4/3/11 at 9:44am
I can't say I agree that America is a society that tries to stamp out the wild N untamed- unlike the gentility of England our country was founded on the wild and reckless and I think continues to glorify that aesthetic today.

My issue with the play isn't it's British roots- I just felt it all heavy handed symbolism.

They could have set it in Florida on the 4th of July and I wouldn't have been more endeared to it because I wasn't very emotionally involved by it



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First Preview Jerusalem?#28
Posted: 4/3/11 at 9:51am
I agree I was in the front row side I got my ticket at the TKTS booth so I wanted to see it more than just RUSH BUT I can not recommend it to anyone I know
I thought Rylance was brilliant but who cared ? I was not emotionally involved at all In fact when they mentioned Elton John in the text of the play I recalled that I forgot to DVR Saturday Night Live with Elton John so I left after the second act during the break to watch a real Englishman If you sit in the front center or right side you will get wet It woke me up I will say that the time goes quickly I left at 10 20 and didnt realize it was that late when I left Brantley will like it again but the News and Post will not
Saw Born Yesterday at matinee and was pleasantly surprised at how wonderful it was A fun time at the theater was Born Yesterday At least one could appreciate the great script
whatever2
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First Preview Jerusalem?#29
Posted: 4/3/11 at 9:59am
Not seeing this til next week, but ...

I understood the concern about the play's "britishness" to be a function of the *subtlety* of its cultural references; i.e., it's nothing patent like, say, a george bush joke ... more a sensibility that imbues the plot. sure, Brits understand American politics -- it's beamed into their living rooms every day! -- but, working for a British company, I can assure you there are many aspects of American culture that are as unfamiliar to them as the full cultural significance of "Jerusalem" is to us.

Speaking of which, here's a link to one of the best explanations i've ever read on the importance of "Jerusalem" to the English people:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1352842/Jerusalem-hymn-British-national-anthem-says-Simon-Sebag-Montefiore.html
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After Eight
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First Preview Jerusalem?#30
Posted: 4/3/11 at 10:19am
Another clothesless emperor.

The play is a garrulous bore. A lot of uninteresting people blathering and bickering on and on about nothing worth hearing.

As for Mark Rylance, he gives a good performance, but a studied one. You are too often aware of his acting choices. He also had problems making himself heard last night. He's shown himself to be a great actor on more than one occasion, but I wouldn't use the word "brilliant" for this first preview.


As for the play, why was this thing even imported here?
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First Preview Jerusalem?#31
Posted: 4/3/11 at 11:52am
Didn't care much for it myself. I thought the British reviews were completely overrated.
After Eight
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First Preview Jerusalem?#32
Posted: 4/3/11 at 12:44pm
Whatever:

Thank you for providing the link to this very interesting article.

To refrence this article to the play, "Jerusalem," the problem strikes me as twofold.

First, if a play requires a speciic cultural affiliation to be properly understood/appreciated, then it's best to leave it within that culture.

Second, the play itself is lousy.
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First Preview Jerusalem?#33
Posted: 4/3/11 at 4:25pm
To expand Smaxie's fine post:

The play, as does the Blake poem from which it takes its title, alludes to a time where history and mythology blur into one. There was nothing "gentle" about the Druids, the Romans, the Anglo Saxons, the Vikings or the Norman Conquest. Nor is there anything gentle about the treatment of Johnny Rooster Byron.

The author seeks to expose how a contemporary English audience misunderstand the anthem Jerusalem; it is not a hymn because Blake despised the institution of the established church as a "dark Satanic mill" and although it refers to Christ it makes no reference to Christian principles and beliefs. Blake was a revolutionary socialist who would probably be deeply uncomfortable with the notion that utopia has been achieved when sung by Olympians, ruggers, patriots and promenaders. And also with Simon Sebag Montefiore using it to publicise his own inferior writing.

The author also seeks to divide the audiences' emotions as Rooster is not any kind of a rural working class hero but a very ambiguous character who has both admirable and reprehensible characteristics. However he has more strength of character than all the other villagers put together, which not only gives Rylance the opportunity for his tour-de-force performance but is also the illustration for the difference between Jerusalem as written and Jerusalem as understood. The play is not a state-of-the-nation rant, draws no moral lines and succeeds in an emotional ambivalence.

Updated On: 4/3/11 at 04:25 PM
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Scripps2
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First Preview Jerusalem?#34
Posted: 4/3/11 at 4:28pm
"if a play requires a specific cultural affiliation to be properly understood/appreciated, then it's best to leave it within that culture."

Theatrical apartheid.
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First Preview Jerusalem?#35
Posted: 4/3/11 at 4:58pm
It's either 'theatrical apartheid' or a strangely arrogant, myopic parochialism , which pretty much amounts to the same thing.
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First Preview Jerusalem?#36
Posted: 4/3/11 at 5:34pm
I experienced this play as poetry. I didn't look for any particular symbolism, but the whole thing feels like it has a mythical (mystical?) overlay. Rylance is a powerful interpreter of this piece. I found him magical as a modern-day pied piper.
After Eight
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First Preview Jerusalem?#37
Posted: 4/3/11 at 6:13pm
"It's either 'theatrical apartheid' or a strangely arrogant, myopic parochialism , which pretty much amounts to the same thing."

Excellent. You have a fantastic way with words. But no matter what highfalutin, snobby putdowns you choose to use, they won't be able to alter the fact that the play in question stinks. And it shows that the British can write overpraised bad plays just like Americans.
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First Preview Jerusalem?#38
Posted: 4/3/11 at 6:23pm
Agreed
I sat there last night and was able to leave after the second act since Elton John was more important and more enjoyable
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frapperia
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First Preview Jerusalem?#39
Posted: 4/3/11 at 6:34pm
I don't think the play stinks at all, it's classic Royal Court, the best Butterworth has written and has some utterly wonderful moments - plus the opening is probably my favourite ever of anything I've seen. And I can only imagine the most recent poster before me is trolling.
After Eight
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First Preview Jerusalem?#40
Posted: 4/3/11 at 6:51pm
Posted On:4/3/11 at 06:34
"the best Butterworth has written"

Could be, but that's not saying much, since all his previous plays that I've had the misfortune to see were terrible. And if "Jerusalem" is his best work then I'm thankful to have missed the others. :)
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First Preview Jerusalem?#41
Posted: 4/4/11 at 2:36pm
I was at the preview yesterday and this show is brilliant. Never have three hours flown by so fast. It is British but that is more of the setting to make a universal point about the direction the whole world is heading in - it is completely comprehensible as an American. But more importantly - it is achingly poignant and constantly hilarious and the acting is gorgeous and real.

LaCageauxFollesfan: it almost seems that you have an agenda here. Good People was interesting and Frances McDormand was a treat to watch, but Jerusalem is a modern masterpiece - I've never seen anything like it. War Horse is a lovely experience, but it's not a brilliant script. And Bengal Tiger is also very intelligent and Robin Williams is wonderful as always - but Jerusalem is a brand new experience! It does not rely on a big film star, but it's the play itself - brilliant on the text-level, symbolic level, direction, acting - it hits straight in the heart and I'd see it again any day.
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First Preview Jerusalem?#42
Posted: 4/4/11 at 8:02pm
Hey After Eight, I haven't seen Jerusalem yet so I can't comment, and you certainly have every right to hate the show. But when you say all the Butterworth plays you've ever seen are "terrible," I find myself wondering why you keep subjecting yourself to his brand of theater! If you think he's so "lousy," isn't life too short to keep going to his plays? Just a thought...
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First Preview Jerusalem?#43
Posted: 4/4/11 at 9:44pm
I completely agree, April Saul. This play was beautiful - I was at the first preview. If this isn't your thing, don't complain about it here. Let people actually have intelligent discussions about the merits of this incredibly rich piece of writing.

For instance, what do you guys think the relevance is of the Jerusalem hymn to the overall theme of the play? I'd say it's about heaven on earth (Was Jerusalem builded here among these dark satanic mills?), and in this play it's about the intrusion of the regulations and government upon a man's right to freedom and the wild rugged lands - this slow takeover by the systems and the cities on the space where man can still be free - and asking the question of whether there was ever heaven on earth - or whether there has always been such a great divide between the rulers and the rebellious. Man - this play is gorgeous.
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First Preview Jerusalem?#44
Posted: 4/5/11 at 12:00am
I had TDF tickets for Jerusalem this past Sunday - row D, center orchestra, thank you baby Jesus for TDF. I'm very glad I saw it - Rylance gives a masterful, mesmerizing performance, and the rest of the cast is strong. I don't feel it's "too British", and I sympathized with the Rylance character. Loved the ending!
April Saul
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First Preview Jerusalem?#45
Posted: 4/5/11 at 12:05am
YES! I have a TDF seat for tomorrow, and not only is it good to hear how much you guys liked it, but that I might even have a good location to see it from; thanks...
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First Preview Jerusalem?#46
Posted: 4/5/11 at 1:05am
I saw the production in London and left feeling that without Rylance's absolutely stunning performance anchoring it (along with Mackenzie Crook's less weighty anchor), the play would be lost. I felt that the play was about the dissipation of cultural legend and myth in the face of development.

However, I felt the play was saddled with a great deal of extraneous baggage- scenes, characters, dialogue. So many parts that did not contribute meaningfully to the whole. I walked out remembering only Rylance and Crook's characters- a bad thing for a play with such a sizable character list.

I also had the distinct feeling the "Britishness" of the piece would work against it here, where theatregoers aren't as open minded or educated about other cultures. There's certainly nothing that would prevent an American from understanding the piece, but enough references that would put one off of it. Not every audience member will be going in having done their research.
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After Eight
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First Preview Jerusalem?#47
Posted: 4/5/11 at 1:21am
To April Saul:

The play got raves in London, hailed as one of the great plays of the century. I went in wih an open mind. And frankly, I don't think anyone, not on this board certainly, has to justify why they go to see any play. Theatregoers go to theatre. You of all people should know that.

To Can'tTake

"If this isn't your thing, don't complain about it here."

Are you for real? You join this group today and you're telling people what or what not to discuss in a thread? Get real, buddy. And let me clue you in to how this board works. These threads are EXACTLY for the airing of differing opinions. If you want a thread where people just gush over a play, it's called a LOVE THREAD. If you cannot accept people whose opinions differ from yours, then I suggest you start one for "Jerusalem.

"Let people actually have intelligent discussions about the merits of this incredibly rich piece of writing."

Oh, my, how high on your horse you are. No one has stopped you from voicing your opinion, have they? And what about those who find this to be an incredibly poor piece of writing? It never dawned on you that people might actually feel that way? What an egomaniacal thing you are. You were at the first preview. You didn't see people nodding off around you? You didn't see people walking out at intermission? They too did not seem to find this "an incredibly rich piece of writing." Open your eyes.

If you're going to be on this board, you'd better learn to deal with other people's points of view that don't jibe with yours. And if you choose not to remain here, I'd suggest you learn to deal witth them as well.

Welcome to this group. Wonderful having your input.
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First Preview Jerusalem?#48
Posted: 4/5/11 at 8:12am
Does anyone know what rush has been like?
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First Preview Jerusalem?#49
Posted: 4/5/11 at 8:05pm
"And what about those who find this to be an incredibly poor piece of writing?"

What about them? Have they bothered to explain how they think the play is an "incredibly poor piece of writing" aside from mentioning nod offs and walk-outs? I've seen nod offs and walk outs of plays by Shakespeare, O'Neill, Miller, etc. etc. Are they bad writers?
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First Preview Jerusalem?#50
Posted: 4/6/11 at 1:16am
I think this production is wonderful. I saw it in the West End and have been eager to see it here. I believe it transferred very well with slight alterations in the text that don't detract from the show.
To anyone new to Jerusalem, you DO NOT have to do research. In fact if you're wary of the published script (from its 2009 Royal Court run and not updated since), any pop culture reference that would send you to google has been switched up. Alan Sugar to Donald Trump, Girls Aloud to Pussycat Dolls. Just simple, common sense switches for the US viewers.

I experienced this play as poetry. I didn't look for any particular symbolism, but the whole thing feels like it has a mythical (mystical?) overlay. Rylance is a powerful interpreter of this piece. I found him magical as a modern-day pied piper.

Exactly agree with you, Vegas2, he's such a force that even if you think you'd want him evicted from your town because of his reprehensible behavior--the eminent danger facing Mark Rylance's Johnny Byron-- you will still be riveted by Rylance's portrayal and storytelling ability. You can see why he's able to amass such a following in the town's lost youth. The man is a legend in his own mind and can pretty much bring anyone under his spell. A scene where he convinces his teen gang that he actually spoke with a live giant is the perfect example of his influence. And when his forest world is invaded by characters that actually call Johnny out on his bullsh*t (by Geralding Hughes' Dawn or Barry Sloane's Troy) the invasion is striking, making them some of the most powerful scenes in the piece.

Yes Mark Rylance is definitely the anchor to the show (it's an unmissable performance to be honest) but I completely enjoyed the entire environment he inhabits which includes all his hangers-ons. Especially his, by turns, most loyal and most argumentative friend Ginger. I think the ensemble have gotten even more well drawn in the transfer. The original cast definitely has, I would like to see it again soon with the new additions only because I was kind of distracted by catching differences in the interpretations of, for example, John Gallagher Jr as Lee --this would not be a problem for new audiences of course.

Ultimately, the play isn't restricted to small town England, it's about an establishment breaking in and endangering something wild and sacred. And the set design in this play is so gorgeous, a complete woodland with live animals, that you feel a great tragedy in the the idea of it being bulldozed for modern structures.
To Michael Bennett's point, I agree Americans do glorify the wild and reckless, we had the old west and cowboys after all, but very often it's just that, idealizing and not actually letting people BE wild. A hypocrisy explored in the play by how their town festival has come to be sanitized by outside business and corporate sponsorship rather than defined by individuals. Specifically Johnny Byron's banned dare-devil acts.

And I can not review this play without adding (spoilers for the very beginning of the show...)
the rave scene that kicks off the play is a BLAST and the favorite start to anything I've ever seen on stage. Stunning.
(spoilers over)

To this thread I might add to After Eight, though I disagree with your assessment of the play, I would commend you for still being open to work by a writer you have not been a fan of.

As for me, I think it's a beautiful beautiful play with unmissable performances by the whole ensemble lead by the fascinating Mark Rylance.