Reflection on Jerusalem – the play

I’ve just come back from Jerusalem. The play. Not the city. It has in the words of my  very cool sister “positively blown me away.” [ insert  bad taste joke about being negatively blown away + city, anyway moving on…]

Of course, we knew that Jez Butterworth’s script was going to amazing and Mark Rylance’s performance completely awe-inspiring. . I think it scooped every award in town here and on Broadway and everything can be said about it, is already said, so this is just a personal reflection as I feel the need to digest this with my fingertips.

My brain is still processing the issues brought up in this play. It is a very English play dealing with very English issues but on a level also resonates with me, a small town foreigner who wanted to leave and see the world. It’s understanding the quirkiness of small towns, where we all know eachother. The security and/or the’ stifling-ness’ of it all.  Still, my family were outsiders: ‘imported’, not from small town stock. Even though I understood ‘the rules’ in time, I did not feel the pressure to obey them (thank god) and often I still felt like an onlooker, an observer of small town politics that were not engrained into my DNA.

Small towns have funny ways, generation-spanning memories, hidden secrets and agendas. Rooster Byron is the local drug supplier but also the person kids run to and hang out with. He is entertaining and a drunk he is a fantasist, a boaster, (borderline) insane, and yet he has a child and a woman who seemingly cares about him. All his different sides make him morally complicated.  Is he wrong or right, is he both? He sure doesn’t deserve to be treated the way he does, or does he?  Are the people of the town to busy trying to clear him out so they don’t have to look to their own faults? Or is he a pest and is the town better off without him? If we didn’t know Rooster was as charming and charismatic as Mark Rylance  makes him and we just read about his ways in the paper – would we condemn him? Probably.

This Rooster and the way the town reacts to him is recognisable though. In my home town, in the small town I first landed on English soil and in the big city I’ve met people with facets of Rooster and I find them hugely fascinating. Similarly, I find their entourage fascinating. I enjoy being their company but realise I’m reluctant to fully join in: it’s too complicated. Like in the Apollo theatre today, I feel myself more comfortable remaining an onlooker, an observer of ways that are not engrained in my DNA.


 ….an endless source of entertainment. Conversation overheard between three Americans on the Tube.

” You know what is really good for when you’re sick?”

This got my attention as I wasn’t feeling too perky…

” Coca cola.”


” Well it was when we were kids,  but there was this other [ couldn’t understand] but I think that was like illegal in New Jersey.”

This is apparently really funny – I guess it’s a cultural thing.

“Here it would be what? Red Bull? Probably?”

” It’s that energy drink. ”

” Yeah like Coke. But you see, my sister…. she’s like all no-sugar right.”


“Yeah completely sugar-free.”


“Yeah I know, but like one day we were in Amsterdam and we just wanted a drink…”

“Oh no…”

“Yeah… and she kept  going like… and I mean… we’re in the middle of nowhere right….”


“And we had to ask:’hey is this sugar free?’… I mean like in the… you know… anyway after awhile we were like: ‘just pick something! We’re thirsty! Come on we’re in Amsterdam!'”


“I mean… how do we know whether its like ‘sugar-free’ or not – we just wanted a drink.”


“It’s probably not even for the sugar.”

“Nah, it’s something to do with calories.”

I guess it is tricky… Diet Coke is billed as Cola Light… but there is that infamous drink called water. Which in Dutch if anyone with sugar-fears ever needs go translates as: water.  I know… but might be worth trying it.


Tonight I watched the musical Backbeat. It’s really more a play with The Beatles music telling the story of the early Beatles days: Mamma Mia it is not. If you are reading this in the hope to find a review you may as well stop here. Sorry.

As I was watching the stage and Andrew Knott deliver his one liners as John Lennon I suddenly remembered why I was once infatuated with the man. (The man being John, not Andrew.) It was not a crush perse: if anything before the hormones kicked in and the boybands came around ( I’ve had this blog for sooo long I will stop apologising for my dire taste in music – you should know this by now) my huge crush was Elvis. As In  Presley. That’s right: the pretty boy with the magic voice and a weakness for glittery jumpsuits… and you wonder why I still have a weakness for pretty boys leaning towards the camp site side.

If Elvis was The Pretty I crushed on, John was The Wit.  I loved his words, his playing with language, his semi-nonsical/ semi-meaningful philosophising, his humour, his anger, his arrogance. He was who I wanted to be because as any teenager I was angry, arrogant and at the same time so insecure.

I connected to this free-spirit/singer-songwriter turned new age tongue-in- cheek philosopher. The latter would shape my appreciation of art: I still find it hard to like any sort of creative person if they take themselves too seriously. So what, if all my teenage- self  was only capable of thinking thoughts and writing pieces that were one foot in utopia-nirvana, one foot in 20th Century materialism: John had mixed up ideas, invented words and played with them and then laughed at his own ideas. I started liking connecting the theories of ancient and modern philosophers to my own experience of life. ( Super-geek! Did A-level philosophy.)

I started appreciating the power of thought shaped by the power of word thanks to John Lennon. I don’t care if he was a difficult personality or made the wrong decisions or hurt people unnecessarily. This is where the years have thankfully caught up: I no longer want to be John but partly thanks to his writing, I laid the foundations to create me.