Review: Jerusalem by Gatecrash Theatre Company
Yesterday I enjoyed a 'bucolic alcoholic frolic' at the theatre of Swindon Dance.
It was a weird experience; it felt like a play that could have been written for an amateur cast to be performed locally, simply because everything was so familiar.
But then I reminded myself that this was not only the seminal West End play of 2010 but also a Broadway smash. Fancy little 'ole Pewsey (masquerading as Flintock) with its 'gypos', drunken teens and carnival having international exposure.
And so the new semi-professional Gatecrash Theatre chose 'Jerusalem' by Jez Butterworth as their inaugural performance, featuring a talented cast of young and older.
Steve O'Halloran played grimy, drug dealing, alcoholic pied piper Johnny 'Rooster' Byron with his collection of teenage 'educationally subnormal outcasts'. They have nothing to do but drink and take drugs, but it does look like one hell of a party.
Johnny offers tall stories and whizz to the kids, hides the 15 year old May Queen who's probably abused by her violent step-father, but he can't relate to his own ten year old son.
The play is a microscope on small town/big village life with one foot in tradition - the fair (carnival), the local pub and the King Alfred statue - and one on modern concerns - the vice grip of the pub's brewery, the erosion of local news, NIMBYism and reliance on alcohol and drugs for entertainment.
Gatecrash Theatre made a brave attempt at this well-scripted play - well defined characters and committed acting, a great set that was less caravan and more Pewsey-style favela - and mostly it worked.
The length of the play - especially with the second half double the length of the first - the heat of the auditorium combined with the fag smoke on stage and some of the poignant lines delivered a little too quietly to be heard at the back made the final section sag a little.
But overall I enjoyed this expletive ridden 'rebuff to the antiseptic world'. An exciting, promising start for a new Swindon theatre company.