Jerusalem review: ‘Company of Ten has found a new star in Marlon Gill’

PUBLISHED: 13:04 14 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:02 14 November 2017

Jerusalem at The Abbey Theatre in St Albans. [Picture supplied by The Abbey Theatre]

Jerusalem at The Abbey Theatre in St Albans. [Picture supplied by The Abbey Theatre]

Supplied by Abbey Theatre

Madeleine Burton reviews Jerusalem at the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

Marlon Gill, right, as Rooster in Jerusalem at The Abbey Theatre in St Albans. [Picture supplied by The Abbey Theatre] Marlon Gill, right, as Rooster in Jerusalem at The Abbey Theatre in St Albans. [Picture supplied by The Abbey Theatre]

The Company of Ten breaks with tradition at the end of its current performances of Jez Butterworth’s modern classic, Jerusalem.

For instead of the whole cast taking the final bow together as is generally the case, Marlon Gill, who plays the role of Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron, takes the first curtain call on his own – and boy does he deserve it.

Of course he is then joined by the rest of an extremely talented cast, but the role of Rooster is so pivotal and Marlon so brilliant in the part that it is right and proper that he should step forward to take his bow first.

It is no easy role – Mark Rylance made it his own when Jerusalem, written by Jez Butterworth, a former pupil of Verulam School in St Albans, was first performed on the London stage.

But it was clear from chatter at the interval that even those who had seen Rylance in the role were bowled over by Marlon’s performance as the saint/sinner who lives an alternative life which revolves around drink, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

The problem is that the residents of a new housing estate want Rooster gone and see him more as the antichrist than a free spirit, surviving on drug dealing and clashing with the authorities.

The language is fruity to say the least as Rooster and his cohorts dance – and that is another of Marlon’s skills – drink, smoke and snort their way through the days.

We know exactly where we are with Jerusalem when Katie Walton’s ethereal Phaedra sings the William Blake hymn beautifully before the curtain rises on what is effectively a heavy metal Bacchanalian orgy involving Rooster and his pals.

Not invited was Ginger – a lovely comedic performance by Alex Bell – who is reminded throughout about what he has missed.

And where comic turns are concerned, you couldn’t get much better than Tim Pemberton as the respectable pub owner Wesley, dressed as a Morris dancer but just as susceptible to drink and drugs as the rest of Rooster’s crew.

Director Jenny Kilcast has a very strong cast and she makes the most of it on a brilliant set designed by Judith Goodban and Tony Penrose.

But at the heart of Jerusalem is Rooster and in Marlon Gill, the Company of Ten has found a new star and one who richly deserves the applause at the finale.

Jerusalem runs until Saturday, November 18, on the main stage of the Abbey Theatre in St Albans.

Any remaining tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or go to www.abbeytheatre.org.uk

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