The Tab Previews: Jerusalem

‘This is a play Durham needs to see’

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Do you trust yourself to judge goodness? Jerusalem presents George Tarling as Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron, an intriguing protagonist who possesses qualities indicative of both extremes of a "paedophile" and a "loveable rogue", in the words of Kishore Thiagarajan-Walker, who plays Ginger, Rooster’s sidekick.

Such consistent contradictions of tragedy and comedy are reflective of Jez Butterworth’s gritty 21st century masterpiece. Whether you react with horror or admiration, regard him as an outrageous libertine or simply a compelling antihero, an awed impression of Rooster always remains.

Director Kim Rana says that "this is a play Durham needs to see". Jerusalem’s portrayal of working-class stagnation is an urgent piece of contemporary theatre. How the audience perceives the characters is particularly important; Rana hastens to label Rooster as a ‘drug dealer, fraud and compulsive liar’ yet allows the audience to adjudicate upon his morality – ‘you can’t tell if he's a good person’, she says.

This play promises to make you think: it engages with psychological issues of routine and indolence, it poses a state of procrastination we can all relate to from our experiences of all-nighters in the Billy B. The play draws attention to our innate habitual patterns, as Thiagarajan says, of ‘having fun, making money and carrying on’. The repetitive nature of life evokes an existential undertone to such an explicitly honest and arguably abrasive play; CeCe Whittingham (Pea) promises that Jerusalem will "resonate" disturbingly.

Harry Twining plays Lee, a teenager and torn character, who embodies the hope to transcend this enveloping feeling of stagnation. Twining describes Jerusalem’s message as being an exploration of both "light and dark" in humanity. This dichotomy is encapsulated by the way his character’s counterproductive desire for rousing adventure battles with his instinctive resignation to abandon the feeling of security and to disengage with his "connection" to home.

Butterworth’s scathing critique of Englishness is presented through witty comedy and relatable tragedy – a unique experience in student theatre: political yet hysterical, accessible yet tantalisingly profound. It is an incredible opportunity to experience one of the defining plays of our time, in a production that promises great things.

Jerusalem will show from 22-24 February at 19:30 in the Assembly Rooms Theatre.