Tag Archives: Emma Gradwell

Jerusalem

Jerusalem
★★★★★

Progress Theatre Reading

Jerusalem

Jerusalem

Progress Theatre

Reviewed – 8th February 2019

★★★★★

 

“Progress Theatre rose to the challenge and have brought us a formidable production”

 

Hidden amongst the houses of Reading is the self-funding theatre group, Progress Theatre. This small theatre is the oldest in Reading and their ambition in taking on Jerusalem is admirable. Directed here by John Goodman, Jez Butterworth’s play is a marathon at three hours long, with two intervals and a lot of swearing.

In walks Matt Tully as Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron and from the outset it is clear that the role is in safe hands. Shaking and hungover he downs his breakfast of vodka and milk. He is soon joined by a motley collective of the youth of Flintlock Village. It is St. George’s Day and the day of the Village Fair. As the morning progresses, the story of last night’s partying starts to come back to them all. Rooster has now been barred from every pub in the village and has destroyed his television set. It is apparent that Rooster’s caravan in the woods is a convenient meeting place for the youngsters. They are given drugs and alcohol and an escape from their parents. Rooster refers to them as his rats, but it is clear that he needs to surround himself with youth to remain young. They hang on his words, with the possible exception of Ginger (Joseph Morbey), who is happy to tell Rooster that his stories are “bollocks”. Morbey’s endearing take on Ginger proficiently leads us to understand the neediness of the character. He is the butt of the group’s jokes, but as it turns out, probably the only true friend that Rooster has. Although they appear to idolise Rooster, there is an undercurrent of mockery and a sense that they are using him for their convenience.

Laurence Maguire as Lee and Rex Rayner as Davey stand out as the guffawing village boys. Lee is planning an exodus to Australia, with its sun and surf, while Davey cannot leave Wiltshire without his ears popping. You get the feeling that although Lee wants to leave, he really won’t be able to. Alison Hill as the sweet and doddery Professor is charming and comedic. John Turner as Wesley, pub landlord, speed addict and Morris Dancer is also a stand out.

Tony Travis’ set design is truly remarkable. The stage’s centrepiece is Rooster’s caravan, Waterloo surrounded by the detritus of endless parties. I am in awe of the trickery involved in getting a whole caravan through the doors.

Jerusalem is a reflection of England’s green and pleasant land and also a sorrow of the takeover of housing estates and petty officialdom. We can empathise with those living with Rooster squatting on their doorstep, but it is hard not to root for him as we see him unravel with the realisation that his life as he knows it is coming to an end. Tully’s rambling monologues take us masterfully through Rooster’s nonchalance to authority and finally to self-destruction, when it becomes clear he does not know what to do. His tall tales of Nigerians and giants symbolises that something beyond his control is coming to take what he holds dear, away from him.

Jez Butterworth has taken ordinary characters that are recognisable from our own life stories and made them extraordinary. Progress Theatre rose to the challenge and have brought us a formidable production. I’ve already booked to see it again.

Reviewed by Emma Gradwell

Photography by Aidan Moran

 


Jerusalem

Progress Theatre until 16th February

 

Previous shows covered by this reviewer:
Robin Hood | ★★★★ | Watermill Theatre Newbury | December 2018
Rocky Horror Show | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Brighton | December 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Rocky Horror Show
★★★★

Brighton Theatre Royal

Rocky Horror Show

Rocky Horror Show

Brighton Theatre Royal

Reviewed – 18th December 2018

★★★★

“It remains, at its heart, simply a bit of fun – and it delivers that in abundance

 

Since its debut in London in 1973, The Rocky Horror Show has been performed almost continuously across the world. The iconic 1975 film adaptation’s success and enduring appeal has sealed it firmly into the fabric of our modern pop culture. The Rocky Horror Show famously combines a ridiculous B-movie science fiction plot with comedy, horror and music.

The story begins with the engagement of Brad and Janet (played by Ben Adams of A1 and former Strictly professional Joanna Clifton), a wholesome all-American couple, who on their way to share their exciting news with their former college professor, Dr. Scott (Ross Chisari), drive into a thunderstorm. Following a tyre blow-out, they approach a nearby castle for assistance. It is a night they will remember for a very, very long time.

As their innocence is lost during one of the master’s affairs, Brad and Janet are introduced to an array of colourful characters. Clifton’s Janet is sweet, naïve and precious, which brings a gentle comedy to the character. Adams’ Brad is as ingenuous, but his desire to protect and control Janet only makes him more ridiculous.

Kristian Lavercombe has been playing Riff Raff the creepy butler for many years, and has notched up over 1,400 performances worldwide. It is an iconic role, originally played by the show’s writer and creator, Richard O’Brien, and is a fan favourite. Lavercombe’s interpretation is near on perfection. He is as deliciously grubby and sleazy as you could wish for. I hope he continues in the role for evermore.

Immoral and outrageous transvestite scientist, Frank n’ Furter has to steal the show. Stephen Webb, directed by Christopher Luscombe, is salacious and mischievous. At times, it feels as if there is too strong an emphasis on giving a depth to the character that is not entirely necessary.

Dom Joly presides as Narrator, who is traditionally heckled by the audience in an outrageously rude fashion. He does an adequate job of rebuffing the relentless jibes, but seemed to lack the repertoire of retorts that others have previously brought to the role.

Set designer, Hugh Durrant has created a background that is framed by an unfurling, giant reel of film. Frank n’Furter’s hallway gives us a gothic style that is reminiscent of a Hammer Horror movie. The lighting felt very fresh with dramatic use of green lasers during the laboratory scenes.

The Rocky Horror show is always a riot. The audience is packed with regulars who know the script and are not ashamed to shout out or stand up and dance. There is little regard for their fellow audience members and some may find it all too much. But, this is all part of the phenomenon and the experience. Its enduring popularity shows no signs of waning and its near constant presence means that it continues to be enjoyed by new audiences as well. It remains, at its heart, simply a bit of fun – and it delivers that in abundance.

 

Reviewed by Emma Gradwell

 


Rocky Horror Show

Brighton Theatre Royal until 5th January

then UK Tour continues

 

 

 

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