Review: Shock and awe in Hasland Theatre Company’s play Jerusalem

Jerusalem staged by Hasland Theatre Company
Jerusalem staged by Hasland Theatre Company
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From the moment that Lilly Beards’ beautiful singing of Jerusalem is cut short by a late-night rave, the seed is sown for a disturbingly powerful drama.

Those of a sensitive nature may find the references to drug taking and binge-drinking, the bloody after-effects of a brutal beating (which is heard but not seen) and colourful language hard to stomach - but to stay away would be to deprive yourself of the best and bravest amateur production this year.

Shocking, poignant and compulsive viewing, Hasland Theatre Company’s production of Jez Butterworth’s anarchic black comedy Jerusalem will mess with your head, leaving you wondering what is fact and what is fiction.

Steve Cowley gives an outstanding performance as crocked, former stunt rider Johnny ‘Rooster Byron, who is the go-to guy for tall tales, recreational highs and trance parties. Rooster lives in a caravan in a woodland glade which resembles a junkyard and downs raw egg for breakfast. His alternative lifestyle and hold on the kids bring him into conflict with jobsworth officials trying to evict him and a thuggish parent looking for his missing daughter.

The role of Rooster is hugely demanding with a weighty, detailed script but it is a challenge from which Steve never flinches in his first-rate characterisation.

A large cast playing friends and foes add layers of humour and horror to the piece. Rooster’s allies are headed by his cowardly lieutenant and aspiring DJ Ginger (played by Stuart Rooker) and include a boring professor (John Belli) and the Wiltshire village gala queen Phaedra (Lilly Beards). His opponents range from Phaedra’s abusive dad Troy (played by Steven Whitaker) to rule-quoting council official Ms Fawcett (Bev Dean).

Jerusalem, directed by Nicky Beards, is an explosive finale to the company’s 69th season. Catch it at Hasland Playhouse until May 28.