Arena Theatre presents Jez Butterworth's


Directed by Paul Nelson with permission from Nick Hern Books

On St. George's Day, the morning of the local county fair, Johnny "Rooster" Byron, local waster and modern day Pied Piper, is a wanted man. The council officials want to serve him an eviction notice, his son, Marky wants his dad to take him to the fair, Troy Whitworth wants to give him a serious kicking and a motley crew of mates want his ample supply of drugs and alcohol.

  • Performance Dates
  • There are no scheduled performances of this production.
Blog Updates
Paul Nelson - Auditions      17/04/2012

Auditions for jerusalem will be at the end of June Specific dates to follow along with character list
Paul Nelson - Character list and ages for Jerusalem      18/04/2012

Johnny 'Rooster' Byron - late 30's to mid 50's - opinionated eccentric ex-daredevil and teller of fantastically improbable stories, he has a young son whom he rarely sees, and lives in a caravan in the local woods holding parties where he gets drunk and supplies drugs, some of them to under-age kids  Ginger - mid to late 20's -  pathetic underdog of the group, he is older than the others who hang around with Johnny, never having grown out of the lifestyle. He aspires to be a DJ, but is in fact an unemployed plasterer  The Professor - 50+ - vague and whimsical, the elderly professor spouts philosophical nothings and unwittingly takes LSD Davey - late teens to mid 20's - abbatoir worker who is best friends with Lee, and visits Rooster regularly for free drugs and alcohol. He can't stand the idea of leaving Wiltshire  Lee - late teens to mid 20's - he enters the play having been hidden in the sofa asleep after about 15 minutes; he plans to emigrate to Australia the next day, despite having little money to take with him  Pea - mid to late teens - local girl who emerge from underneath Johnny's caravan, having fallen asleep drunk there  Tanya - mid to late teens -  local girl who emerge from underneath Johnny's caravan, having fallen asleep drunk there  Phaedra - mid to late teens -  Troy's stepdaughter, she is seen at the beginning of both Act One and Two singing the hymn Jerusalem dressed in fairy wings, and her disappearance is referred to; it is only at the end of Act Two that it is revealed that she is actually hiding in Johnny's caravan  Troy Whitworth - late 20's to early 40's -  local thug, strongly implied he sexually abused his step daughter; he badly beats Johnny up at the end of the play  Wesley - late 30's to late 50's -  the local pub landlord, he is involved in the festivities for St George's Day and has been roped in to doing the Morris Dancing  Dawn - late 20's to mid 40's -  Johnny's ex-girlfriend and mother to his child, though she disapproves of his lifestyle; having spent some time with him she relapses and kisses him, but there is no reconciliation  Linda Fawcett - early 20's and above -  council official Luke Parsons - early 20's and above -  council official Marky - 5 to 9 years old - Johnny's son  2 Thugs - 20's and above - Troy's friends
Paul Nelson - Audition Dates      05/06/2012

Read through - Monday 25 June at Avonbourne School starting at 7-15pm Auditions - Friday 29 June and Monday 2 July (choose one date) at Avonbourne, starting 7-30pm If you can not make these dates but still want to audition then please get in touch
Paul Nelson - The big one!!      18/06/2012

Read through for Jerusalem is less than a week away.  Monday 25 June, 7-15pm at Avonbourne School.  If you are just interested and want to find out about the play then just turn up with no obligation to audition.  Auditions will be Friday 29 June and Monday 2 July (choose one night).  If you still want to audition but can not make these dates then get in touch
Paul Nelson - Cast List      10/07/2012

Auditions proved a head ache, but eventually we have a cast.  The decision wasn't based on a lack of talent but who to leave out.  Thank you to everyone who auditioned, you were all excellent and would love to see you all back again in the future.
Paul Nelson - Starting      01/08/2012

  Well, after 18 months of planning the time is almost here.  Tomorrow will see the first read through, with cast, for Jerusalem.  It’s one of those plays that you can easily picture being played out in your head whilst reading it.  It’s now my job to bring those pictures to life.  It’s odd because I am genuinely nervous about this one.  I am going to put it down to the fact that firstly, it means a lot to me, and secondly, it comes with a huge reputation and that we have to do it justice.  What will be interesting are the actors’ thoughts and feelings about the play and their characters.  Obviously I have my opinions, but I see direction as a consensual process; perhaps there is something in the story or a character that I haven’t seen and that another has.  August has been chosen to start rehearsals because we can workshop sections and ideas, knowing that there will be people off on holiday, etc.  September will see the constructing and October the polishing.
Paul Nelson - In to it a bit but just before the middle      02/10/2012

Ok, just under half way in the rehearsals.  A lot of this has been blocking and re-blocking.  The piece is potentially very static, so create movement that looks natural has been a challenge.  There has also been a lot of talk about characterisation and meaning from the subtext.  It’s this that adds the layers and whereas I support this, I think that we just need to do it; nothing like putting it into practice. Next week we have a vocal coach coming in to work on the Wiltshire accent.  The need to get rid of this generic West Country accent has become a necessity and adds another layer to the texture within the play.  We are also taking a day trip out to Pewsey where the play is set, to see the likes of The Moonraker’s and The Cooper’s.  You never know, we just might run into the legendary Micky Do, the bloke the character of Rooster is based on.  
Paul Nelson - Hear ye! Hear ye!      16/11/2012

Right, this is too good a play to be wasted on half houses as it is at present.  I have bought 4 tickets for tonight's final performance (Friday 16 November, 7-15pm start), that I am prepared to give to anyone who wants them.  I want my cast and crew to experience a decent sized audience because they deserve it.  They have worked too hard to be let down.  Therefore, the only thing I ask is this; be at the Regent Centre by 7-00pm tonight to collect the tickets for the show - completely free of charge.  I will be the fat bloke selling the programmes.  First person who claims them can have them.  I want more people to experience good theatre.  This post is not a joke.  Please remember that there are only 4 tickets

Phil Vivian

  JEZ Butterworth’s play is about a man living in a battered caravan in woods on the edge of the fictional Wiltshire town of Flintock, the exact location adjacent to a new housing estate. Set on St George’s Day, it becomes a vehicle for what shorthand sometimes dubs a “state of the nation” play, one man’s character, values, circumstances and relationships carrying a significance beyond the personal or local. John Gayler’s set provides a simple, spare – even Spartan – and evocative backdrop to the play’s action, developed over three acts. An opening rendition of ‘Jerusalem’ by newly-crowned 15-year old beauty queen Phaedra ((Lora Townsend) is as beautiful as the contemporary music that disrupts it is fierce, the juxtaposition immediately establishing the tone of conflict that pervades the play within both its on-stage action and that which is alluded to throughout. Publicity for the play warns that it contains extensive use of language that some will find offensive. The warning is merited; the language is integral to the play and the characterisations. Having said that, I did find this and other aspects of the long – for me overlong; the fault lying, I think within the writing rather than the production – first act excessive. It felt as though we were being bludgeoned with the characters’ feckless self-delusion when the point could have been made and the plot-strands, characters and atmosphere established more economically. Towards the latter part of the act, I found my mind straying to Macbeth’s lines: “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The very relentlessness of writing and playing/direction somewhat undermined what could have been even more effective. Fortunately, the overkill was not repeated subsequently and the pace and tone benefited greatly from the variations in both that characterised the remaining acts. Certainly, the language exposes the underlying inarticulacy of many of the characters and the impotence that lies within them. At the heart of the play is, of course, Johnny “Rooster” Byron. This provides a demanding challenge for any actor, in terms of both the size and the intensity, physical and emotional, of the character. The programme notes speak of a “crazy, raging, poetic Pied Piper”: my feeling was that Justin Sellick superbly captured the first two qualities but I was less convinced of the third, at least until the closing stages of the play. Perhaps as high a compliment as I can pay is to say that I would not be particularly interested in seeing another production of ‘Jerusalem’, partly because, unlike some great writing, I don’t feel that the play necessarily has more to offer up but equally because I left the theatre feeling that I had seen “Rooster”, the part seeming to fit the actor, and the actor the part, like a bespoke overcoat. There were some moments of real quality throughout, not least in his handling of the visceral closing passages and soliloquy. I can almost forgive the exuberantly self-indulgent curtain call! While one or two of the younger cast-members’ performances felt a little too transparently technical, again the writing seems to me to limit the scope available to such characters as Pea (Marie Bushell) and Tanya (Katie Price), both well-served by their players. What the playwright creates demands and feeds off to a certain extent what feels like stereotyping. It was not just the accents that evoked the spirit of ‘Little Britain’’s Vicky Pollard at times. However, just as with the central performance, I was impressed by the quality of the whole cast. Put simply, there were no weak links. Accents and passions, in themselves convincing, at times profited at the expense of clarity but the production overcame these flaws. Certainly, I felt that the whole cast was playing with irrefutable passion, commitment and belief, complemented by direction that allowed movement to retain a sense of plausible spontaneity, however well rehearsed, something that the director in me values for its verisimilitude. Director Paul Nelson certainly succeeded in drawing out of his cast believable performances and in creating a community and a scenario in which we could believe and immerse ourselves. Amid strong performances throughout by, for example Gareth Richards as Rooster’s mate, Ginger, and Richard Batt as local publican and newly-converted Morris dancer Davey, it was some of the smaller roles, in terms purely of time on stage, that particularly appealed. As Dawn, the mother of Rooster’s six-year old son, Clare Rhodes very precisely balanced susceptibility to Rooster’s allure with weariness and rejection of his chosen path and lifestyle. This is a critical element within the play since, after seeing him surrounded by his acolytes, in the guise of friends and thereby seeking their own places within the myth that they have helped to sustain, Dawn’s insistent objectivity throws into sharp and critical relief a character as flawed as he is charismatic. Similarly, as Troy Whitworth, Simon Meredith very effectively provided a further critical perspective on Rooster, both exposing the latter’s human weakness and thereby intensifying the sympathy of his character. Simon Meredith’s performance, like that of Clare Rhodes, resisted (and/or was not allowed by the director) any temptation to overplay. Both allowed the text to speak through their characterisations instead of trying to impose their characterisations on the text. As Phaedra, Lora Townsend, long unseen after her opening singing, was the third of the characters whose appearances help to give even more depth and variety to our assessment of Rooster. We realize, even as she enthuses about it, that her crowning is as ephemeral and illusory in its substance as is the myth that has grown up around and, fed by his followers, defined and limited Rooster as something less than he might have been. It would be unfair too not to give credit to young Cameron Pike who, as Rooster’s son, used stillness and a willingness to become a prop for Rooster to steer clear of some of the pitfalls that can spoil such roles. I was aware of one or two early departures and there were one or two passages when what was being said on stage was in danger of having to compete with some sort of dialogue from the rear of the auditorium. However, the audience’s laughter that punctuated the performance and the acclaim at the end of the play clearly expressed the view of the great majority of those present. As I’ve admitted, I wearied of - indeed, never really bought into – the long opening act but found the rest of the play far more absorbing, skilfully constructed and directed, and, ultimately, illuminating.
Stour & Avon Magazine

  Jerusalem, Arena Theatre FEET – that in ancient time walked upon England's mountain green – start and finish Jez Butterworth's epic play Jerusalem, given one of its first amateur productions at Christchurch Regent Centre by Dorset's Arena Theatre last week. This is the play that stopped the London critics in their tracks, scooping up rave reviews and awards both for the playwright and Mark Rylance's central performance as Johnny Rooster Byron, a nomadic former daredevil stunt rider who lives in a caravan near Pewsey. Generations of local kids have dropped in on Rooster, collecting drugs, booze, fags, a different look at the world and other unquantifiable things from this charismatic bullshitter. And it's not only the kids. Pillars of the local society call in to the caravan in the clearing to avail themselves of the Rooster's unique hospitality. Set on St George's Day, the day of the local show, Butterworth's play (which he based on a character he met in north Wiltshire while he was working at Bristol Old Vic on an earlier play, Mojo) is funny, shocking, and thought-provoking. It deals with many of the issues that we confront every day, and for local audiences the Wessex setting is familiar - as were the perfect accents adopted by the Arena actors. The three act play starts as a couple of local council officers arrive to serve an eviction notice on Mr Byron, after a mass of complaints from the residents of the new housing estate nearby about the wild goings-on at his clearing. During the day various hangers-on and regular Roosterites turn up, and the reality of their relationships with the Pied Piper of the forest unravel, until the dramatic climax. And throughout the play stories of his past are revealed, until the audience, like his followers and would-be friends, can't tell truth from fiction. Any production of Jerusalem depends on a monumental central performance, and in Justin Sellick director Paul Nelson found the physical intensity, magnetism and magpie intelligence needed to make Rooster Byron a real and recognisable character. He was brilliantly supported by Gerry Carroll as the dippy professor, Barry Gunny as the duplicitous Wesley, Richard Batt as Davey, Gareth Richards as Ginger, a man never quite in the right place at the right time, and Joseph Murphy-Sullivan as reluctant emigree Lee, with Marie Bushell,Charlotte Peach, Katie Spencer, Clare Rhodes and Lora Townsend as the girls. Performed on a set designed by John Gayler with a soundscape by Jo Tyler, this was a triumphant production for Arena, of an important modern play that you can't see many amateur groups having the resources to perform. GP-W
New Milton Advertiser

Christchurch's Regent Centre was transformed into an English woodland for Arena Theatre's interpretation of Jez Butterworth's very modern classic 'Jerusalem'. Directed by Paul Nelson and set in the fictional Wiltshire town of Flintock any association with W.I. meetings and patriotic rugby anthems was very quickly dispelled by the opening scene of a drug-fuelled rave in the countryside. The play, which was the recipient of two Olivier Awards in 2010, was a noticeable departure from the Regent Centre's usual offerings, but the modest crowds that gave it a go were rewarded with an intense, rich and gripping production, delivered with utter conviction by the talented cast. The central character Johnny 'Rooster' Byron was a 21st Century 'Pied Piper', drawing local teenagers to his clearing in the woods with the promise of a copious and varied supply of drugs, and escapism from the modern reality of ASBOS and health and safety regulations, or just nagging wives. A former motorcycle stunt rider, Johnny's mentality is firmly focused on living for the moment with very little thought of what the future might hold. However, the local authority that owns the woodland on which his beaten up caravan sits has other ideas and a final eviction noitce has been served giving Johnny 24 hours to vacate the site. Together with his random collection of 'merry men', Johnny vows to take on the council and modern society in general, with a battle plan that involves smoking cannabis, snorting cocaine, and drinking vodka for breakfast. Justin Sellick was so utterly brilliant, wonderfully funny, and when necessary poetically poignant in his portrayal of Johnny that it's actually hard to believe he does not live in a caravan on the edge of a Wiltshire town. Gareth Richards was also notable in his performance as Johnny's best friend Ginger, a wannabe DJ and hanger-on who continued to visit the woodland clearing long after his generation of teenage ravers had grown up and moved on. Added to the eccentric mix were Gerry Carroll, as the disorientated and philosphical professor lost in his own world after the death of his beloved wife, Joseph Murphy-Sullivan as Lee, a teenager on the cusp of a gap year to Australia, Davey (Richard Batt), a slightly sinister abattoir worker who uses Johnny for free drugs, and giggling school girls Pea and Tanya (Marie Bushell and Katie Spencer) who are just along for the ride. In contrast to the hedonistic party atmosphere are the tender moments between Johnny and his six-year old son Marky (Cameron Pike), who is desperate for a father figure, and Marky's mum Dawn (Clare Rhodes), who begs Johnny to change his ways. As the moment of eviction draws closer, Johnny finds that without the draw of drugs his 'merry men' have quickly disbanded and he is left all alone to face the onslaught of angry parents, determined council workers and the real world he has fought so hard to ignore. With prolific swearing and regular bouts of drug-taking, 'Jerusalem' would certainly not be to everyone's taste, but the sharp script, brilliant cast and superb scenery made the three-hour show a riveting and exhilarating ride.
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