Thursday, 12 January 2012

Pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

A rare trip into the West End and a nose bleed climb to the Gods of the Apollo Theatre to catch Mark Rylance for one last time as Rooter Byron in the wonderful Jerusalem, which finally closes at the end of the week, following triumphant runs at the Court and on Broadway. I was lucky enough to see it during the original run and was fascinated to see if anything had changed over the last three years.

The most noticeable thing was Rylance's performance. The bravado was still there, the bursts of lightening, the audacious fabulism - but another layer was now in place, a sense of foreboding, an understanding from early on that despite the aura of invincibility, the forces of time and propriety were going to bring him down. This was a less naive Rooster, but all the more brave for refusing to let any of his young companions see the dwindling twinkle in his eye. In private though an occasional flash of fear whenever he applied his razor sharp mind to working out the odds of keeping his world alive. The forced effort of an exhausted showman determined to go down all guns blazing. He is the Archie Rice, the Mr Micawber, the Falstaff of our age and it's simply the greatest stage performance I have ever seen.

The show as well has reached mythical status and I bumped into four Drama St Mary's third years in the foyer, who'd slept out over night to ensure returns. Although bleary eyed, they were understandably high on expectation brandishing their tickets as if they'd won permission to visit Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Their adventure had been made complete by a midnight visit from Mark Rylance himself, who'd brought them whisky and encouragement on his way home after a post-show meal. The cold wait, they felt, had definitely been worth it. Stalls seats, right at the front.

Garrick, Kean, Irving, Olivier we may have missed; but in years to come, when we're old and grey, we'll all be able to say with great pride, and possibly a little shiver of remembrance that we saw Mark Rylance play Rooster Byron. It's the stuff dreams are made on


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