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.