United Players of Vancouver
Jericho Arts Centre, until June 30th
Photo Credit: Nancy Caldwell
My Two Pence
Jerusalem is a wild ride into the fringes of the English countryside. This play captures a niche of rural British life, giving dues to the Wiltshire man-in-the-caravan along with his band of hangers-on, each one filled with individuality and a disturbing amount of narcotics. Whilst this work requires a significant time investment for the audience to enjoy, the United Players have delivered an astonishingly brilliant production, with no expense spared to detail. The harshness and realness of the performance was astounding, blending the crude with the almost Byronic poetry of Jez Butterworth’s prose.
Being introduced to our anti-hero Johnny “Rooster” Byron, we are presented with a glimpse of what is to be expected from the rest of the play. Adam Henderson provides us a consistent anchor in this fallen man, stumbling out of his caravan after a fun filled soirée. We watch on in horror as he prepares his breakfast in the cleanest pint glass he can find, filling it with milk, a (real) raw egg, vodka and just a dash of cocaine. There is no faking from here on in as Henderson dramatically slams the concoction down his throat. He is going to consume a pint of overdriven Prairie Oyster every single performance for your entertainment. This phenomenal dedication to the craft is worth every cent of your ticket.
Hyper-realism continues throughout the 3 acts, with a capable supporting cast of distinctive characters. The roles were unique and well defined, brought to life with enthusiasm and hard work. Every moment on stage had the dynamic mix of characters entirely lost in the narrative, capturing the audience in the spell of Rooster’s charisma.
All the company members had a strong grasp in the oo-aars of the west-country dialect, providing immersion and convincing personas. A few stand out performers were Ginger (Josh Osborne) and Wesley (John Prowse) - who provided the defining subtleties to have me convinced I had known someone just as they portrayed. Bringing the room seamlessly into the projected illusion is the mark of an excellent actor.
My only concern for this production is the choice of the production itself. The source material is highly dependent on being intimate with the setting, with many amusing asides listing local market towns and nearby villages. The frequency of these very specific references will make it challenging for most of the Vancouver theatre goers to stay engaged throughout, despite the universal themes which exist under the veil of colloquialism.
Truly this is an audacious work of art. The 3-hour-long story is continuously engaging, the characters sharp and vivid and the set meticulous and immersive. UP’s Jerusalem merges the coarse edges of this story of barbarity with the softness of beautiful poetry, creating an enchanting dance to the show’s pacing. Scenes transition gracefully from cursing vulgarity to a harmonious recitation of some romantic musing on the glory of pastoral English pastures. I highly recommend anyone who can tolerate the mature themes to view this magnificent achievement of theatre.
- Irving Bolton