Play Jerusalem By Jez Butterworth, dir Ian Rickson. Royal Court Theatre, 10th July-15th August, Tel: 020 7565 5000, from £10
Jez Butterworth has had an odd career since Mojo made his name at the Royal Court in 1995 and was subsequently filmed with Harold Pinter, Butterworth’s hero, in the cast. The film Birthday Girl (2001), starring Nicole Kidman, which Butterworth wrote and directed, was a sex enslavement thriller that misfired badly, while his latest movie, Fair Game, which he wrote and produced, is shooting with Sean Penn. Just turned 40, Butterworth’s theatre reputation has come into sharper focus this year with Parlour Song, a fine play of suburban strangeness and romantic betrayal at the Almeida. Now a new play—his fourth at the Court—directed by Ian Rickson and starring the peerless Mark Rylance alongside Mackenzie Crook, (gormless Gareth in The Office), promises another poetic conjunction of urban displacement and rural myth-making.
Not many playwrights since Shakespeare have tried to depict the intellectual and spiritual conflict between countryside and city manners to the extent that Butterworth has. Jerusalem, set on the morning of a county fair on St George’s day, takes a reading of national disaffections through the story of Johnny Byron, a character the playwright describes as a modern Pied Piper cast adrift on a sea of drugs and alcohol, threatened with an eviction order and a serious kicking from his mates.
This role should suit the maverick side of Rylance’s talents; he was the best Hamlet of his generation and an inspired artistic director of the Globe theatre. Director Rickson specialises in expressing the poetic hinterland of Butterworth’s writing and, with Crook also on board (he played Konstantin in Rickson’s naggingly elegiac revival of Chekhov’s The Seagull), the scene seems set fair for an intriguing and provocative contemporary drama. Michael Coveney is a theatre critic for whatsonstage.com
Art Telling Tales: Fantasy and Fear in Contemporary Design V&A, 14th July-18th October, Tel: 0207 942 2000, www.vam.ac.uk; free
You might have thought we would hear less about the much-vaunted design economy in these chastened times. This V&A show, however, chooses to focus not on the sleek mainstream, where design aspires to furnish “Cool Britannia,” but on contemporary design’s most eccentric outpost, design art. The objects in this show—wardrobes, chairs, consoles, lanterns, chandeliers, tables, sofas, mirrors, vases and even bathtubs—take function…