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FEBRUARY 2010

I now have to disagree with myself…..the review below from the Royal Court run six months ago suggests the play is great though not a classic – well, I’m wrong; it is!

It has so much depth that it needs a second view. It still has an epic sweep and it’s still very funny, but now the contradictions become more real. Your sympathies are with rebel Rooster Byron but you know you’d hate it if he was your neighbour. You laugh at the ‘war stories’ of drug-fuelled parties the morning after, but you can’t approve of him dealing to minors. Your heart is with his in an England of old but your brain knows things have to change. Even his young followers both celebrate and exploit him.

There is more poignancy and his loneliness really gets under your skin. It’s a real state-of-the-(rural)-nation play with lots to say about lots of things, but without rights and wrongs, taking sides or preaching. At times last night, I felt I was in the woods with this lord of misrule and his pilgrims.

The cast is virtually intact from the Royal Court run and seem to have grown into their roles, and Mark Rylance’s masterful performance still towers over most I’ve seen in a lifetime of theatre-going. There’s an Airstream caravan in the woods with a soundscape that helps take you there. It doesn’t look like it was directed, which is a great compliment to Ian Rickson’s direction!

It is a classic and it will be revived in the future, but go and see it now because it’s a play for now with a production and performances which are probably already definitive.

AUGUST 2009

Until this year, only two Jez Butterworth plays have been produced since his debut with Mojo 14 years ago. Then along come two in quick succession! This is without question his best – I’m not sure it’s a classic, but it is a theatrical feast.

There are many themes being explored here – changes in rural life, tolerance of diferent lifestyles, urban invasion –  in an intelligent but very funny way and you’re thinking about them for a long time after you’ve left the theatre……but it’s the pace, rhythm and energy that sweeps you away and sustains a runing time of over 3 hours without flagging for a moment. Both the design and direction are masterly.

There are a lot of young inexperienced actors in this superb ensemble who will no doubt never forget the experience of a nightly masterclass in acting from Mark Rylance, who positively inhabits this wonderfully meaty role of Shakespearean proportions. You don’t see many performances like this in a lifetime, yet he takes his bows in the least starry way alongside his colleagues.

Wonderful.

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