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Jerusalem (NHB Modern Plays) Paperback – 9 Jul 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Nick Hern Books (9 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848420501
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848420502
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Unarguably one of the best dramas of the twenty-first century --Guardian

A new play of irrepressible energy, wonderful wit and wild wonder. --Sunday Express

An invigorating, yelping, defiant portrait of 21st century shires England. --Daily Mail

Proves to be even better than its ecstatic publicity suggests. --Independent

Refreshing, humane, touching and wickedly funny. --Evening Standard

Spellbinding, exuberant and glowingly atmospheric. --Time Out

An instant modern classic. --Daily Telegraph

A hilarious, enchanting, affecting evening...one of the juiciest roles in living memory --The Times

A riveting hymn to England. --Daily Express

This play, this production, this performance are sensational. --The Financial Times

Jerusalem will surely wind up trailing trophies like pots on a tinker's wagon. And it's easy to see why. --Daily Mail

Jerusalem is a great frame-busting play that still exists solidly within a conventional framework. It could have been written in almost any year from the 1920s onward. Yet this work takes you places distant, out-of-time places that well-made plays seldom do. And it thinks big transcendently big in ways contemporary drama seldom dares.

One of the indispensable things that art does is find grandeur in unexpected places. Shakespeare saw it in a fat, craven gourmand named Falstaff; Mr. Butterworth and Mr. Rylance have located it in another hedonist and fabulist. While refusing to make him heroic, or even likable in any traditional sense, Jerusalem persuades us to accept Johnny as one of the last of the titans, a man who taps our lust for life lived large and excessively, without social restraints. He incarnates the spirit of a mythic England that may never have been but that everyone, on some level, longs for.

We theatergoers too are starved for a sense of the mythic, for performances we can talk about with glassy-eyed rapture in the years to come. Mr. Butterworth, Mr. Rickson and Mr. Rylance have provided us with that opportunity. Except in this case the mythic is no mere myth. Mr. Rylance also captures to a degree I can imagine no other contemporary actor doing Johnny's vast, vital, Falstaffian appetite for pleasure, for independence, for life itself. His Johnny Byron is truly a performance for the ages. --New York Times

I hope that the majority of people who haven't had the chance to see Jerusalem might get enough of a dim, distant echo to perhaps go out and read the play. --Andrew Marr on BBC News

About the Author

JEZ BUTTERWORTH'S NEW PLAY THE RIVER WILL PREMIERE AT THE ROYAL COURT IN OCTOBER 2012 AND IS PUBLISHED BY NICK HERN BOOKS. His previous plays, Mojo, The Night Heron and The Winterling were all premiered at the Royal Court. Another new play, Parlour Song, opened at the Almeida Theatre in Spring 2009. His films (as writer and director) include Mojo and Birthday Girl, starring Nicole Kidman. All of these plays are available in single editions and in a collection Jez Butterworth Plays: One, published by Nick Hern Books.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I bought this to read after reading about the play on a news website. It's a great play to read and I would love to see it performed one day. I'm not sure how anyone outside the UK would take it as the characters and setting feel very English, but I do think the main character is so idiosyncratic that he would be interesting for anyone to watch. A great tale of something very earthy mixed with something very romantic (about England and the English) and folkloric. I loved the ending. It was one of the best endings I've "seen" in a play for a while.
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Format: Paperback
Dear fellow theatre lovers,
I can only recommend this play to you. I'm from Germany and saw the stage production in London's West End, because the title made me curious as I know the hymn "Jerusalem" and I had one of the best theatre evenings in years! As English is not my mother tongue I decided to read the play as well, because I really would not want to miss any of the jokes and satire in it. It's fresh, it's witty, it's entertaining as well as bitter to swallow.
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Jerusalem is a play about England, and I cannot think of a playwright since Shakespeare who has tackled the subject with such upfront gutsiness as Jez Butterworth does here. The text of the play is a real page-turner, not least because it is very funny.

In his use of language, Butterworth is more post-Pinter than he is post-Shakespeare. But neverthless, the distant echo of A Midsummer Night's Dream does haunt this play. And like Shakespeare, he does pepper the text with snatches of old songs, at least one of which is worth quoting here:

To see a strange outlandish fowl,
A quaint baboon, an ape, an owl,
A dancing bear, a giant's bone,
A warlock shift a standing stone,
A rhymer's jests, a juggler's cheats,
A tumbler showing cunning feats,
A morris dance, a puppet play,
Mad Tom to sing a roundelay,
All this upon St George's Day!

In the dialogue, Butterworth captures the idioms of speech, down Wiltshire way, so very well that one might easily mistake him for a native son of that county. Just as he captures the sense of England's "pleasant pastures" disappearing beneath a slew of by-passes and identikit housing estates.

What repeatedly enlivens the play - and possibly seperates it from the Pinter - are Butterworth's twin senses of humour and of fun. Bad things may happen, but there is nearly always a joke to hand. And he likewise adds colour to it with a liberal sprinkling of contemporary pop-culture references. Although quite how badly these may date with the passage of time, is anybody's guess.

The characters - Johnny, Ginger, the Professor, et al - are very well drawn, which is to say that Butterworth conveys a strong sense of their individuality, as characters.
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Format: Paperback
Jerusalem is about many things, from the hard partying gang that hangs about Rooster's rickety Airstream trailer, to the sadness of the discrimination against Romanys - Gitanes - Gypsies - of which he turns out to be one. Condemned to making money as a daredevil in his youth and a blood donor in middle age, Rooster is determined to live large - while the local town does its utmost to boot him out. In between, we are treated to the magic of central England, the fairies and giants and mystical beings that inhabit the woods and glens that for centuries have provided our legends. From Robin Hood to hobbits to Shrek, this setting is as fertile as they come, and author Jez Butterworth milks it to its fullest.

The first two acts are riotously funny, setting us up for the dismal fall, which is obvious from the beginning - this can't last. And it doesn't. But along the way we are treated to Rooster's intelligence, his understanding of the way things work, and his role in them. It's a remarkable story of coping and survival in a hostile environment, buried in a haze of gin and marijuana, as anybody in his situation might descend to. To that point, Jerusalem is highly believable. This could (and of course has been) going on in real life. Only the wonderfully involved massive and mammoth lies that Rooster spins are obviously made up. He has made himself into one of the great legends of the woods, remaining Rooster while generation after generation of teenagers in search of something more hang out for a while and move on.

A delightfully complex story, though readers don't have to get all this from reading it. As a straight story it is highly entertaining. But make no mistake, there is a masterpiece lurking in these pages.
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I live in North Devon so had to read Jez Butterworth's big hit Jerusalem before I was finally fortunate enough to see it in London last year. I'm glad I did as the play is so beautifully written that the characters flew off the page. So much so that only an actor as brilliant as Mark Rylance could have taken the written words to an even higher level. This play is a song to our rural way of life. It's funny, tragic, honest, direct and utterly mesmerising. It harks back to folk tales and myths and yet is completely modern. The only way I can really describe the experience of both reading and then seeing the play is perhaps by imagining that it gives the sort of wonder that audiences must have felt when they first stumbled upon Shakespeare's plays over 400 years ago. This is truly the best play I have ever read, the best play I have seen and for what it's worth to this book review, Mark Rylance's performance was the best performance I have witnessed.
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