Local twists in Jez Butterworth play at St Albans theatre

Parlour Song

Parlour Song - Credit: Archant

Local references abound in Parlour Song, written by St Albans playwright Jez Butterworth, which opens at the Abbey Theatre Studio tomorrow night. (22)

Parlour Song

Parlour Song - Credit: Archant

Jez Butterworth has been acclaimed as one of our greatest latter day writers and has won plaudits all across the globe. His most famous play, Jerusalem, introduced the theatre-going public to Johnny “Rooster” Byron, one of the most compelling, complex and iconic characters in modern British theatre.

Parlour Song, which precedes it, was written in 2008 and is being performed by The Company of Ten.

It is set in and around a suburban new-build estate with a view of “Hatfield Towers” and has many familiar references.

Born in 1969, Butterworth and his three brothers, Tom, Steve and John-Henry, were brought up in St Albans. They lived on a sixties housing estate very like the one in Parlour Song. The main character in the play, Ned, is an avid collector of junk, as was Jez’s father.


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The Butterworth house was choc-a-bloc with items from junk shops and car boot sales. There were always broken-down vehicles outside.

Butterworth has recalled in interview that the house was a total mess, so much so that Jez and Tom claimed a space in the garage for themselves to work and hang out. The boys went to Verulam School and later Jez went on to read English at Cambridge University, where his playwriting career really began.

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A review at the time described Parlour Song as “a blackly hilarious exploitation of deceit, paranoia and murderous desire, which also offers up a nuanced, sympathetic depiction of suburban living”.

Ned, a demolitions expert, can’t sleep, and is slowly going mad. One of his “delusions” is that his collection of oddities is gradually disappearing, and that his wife, Joy, is to blame.

His collecting “habit” has provided a challenge for the props department. The list included, among other things, stuffed animals, a sink and cistern, golf clubs, a pocket watch, a bird bath, a stamp collection, a complete set of Dickens, a tandem, a kettlebell, a scrabble set, fishing rods, and an ancient lawnmower.

Jacqui Golding, who is in charge of props for the show, said: “The final selection will be decided when we see what will fit onto the stage. The theatre does have an amazing props store but a call did go out to members for the few missing items we did not have in stock. Of course, as always, our members rose to the challenge and brought them in.”

Performances are at 8pm tomorrow and Saturday (23) and from next Tuesday, April 26, until Saturday, April 30. There is also a matinee at 2.30pm this Sunday, April 24.

Tickets are available online or call the box office on 01727 857861.

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