Mark Rylance... Its not a name I had come across before now, I have to be honest most of my focus is on musicals, so no matter how good an actor someone may be, if they haven't been in a musical the chances are I will not know who they are. But just like the seasons of the year, I too am changing, I have found a passion for plays at the moment. Maybe it is down to the fact that I am in a couple over the next 12 months, or maybe Ive just got bored of musicals having currently seen the vast majority of the ones which are on in the West End at the moment.
Mark Rylance came to my attention when I decided I wanted to see the show Jerusalem, which was running for a limited season at The Apollo Theatre on Shaftsbury Avenue until the end of last month. There was a lot of hype about the show, which won Mark an Olivier for best actor. Tickets were also very hard to come by, and I was extremely lucky to get mine I hasten to add. But as we all know, I am a tad fussy. Lets face it I don't really like Wicked the Musical all that much... and everyone loves Wicked! So there was every chance too that this too wouldn't live up to my expectations. I do also have a tendancy to pick wholes in productions also, so it would be interesting to see how this would fair in the Gareth ratings.
Thankfully I can tell you it blew me away. Rylance is one hell of an actor who brought the role of Johnny Byron to life. So much depth, passion and diversity, he captured Byron's ever changing emotions throughout whilst maintaining the characterisation he had meticulously pieced together for the role. Also in the show, staring as "Ginger", best known for roles in that terrible comedy "The Office" and of course "Pirates of the Caribbean" was Mackenzie Crook. Another fantastic actor, though I must say... I absolutely hated "The Office", I have never come across a so called comedy that has lacked humour, what a boring series that was. Quite how it was as successful as it was I will never know. But rest assured my prejudice against the show was not held against Mackenzie Crook personally, he is an outstanding actor who seemed so at home on the big stage where he forged a fantastic rapport with Rylance.
I guess all that went against the show in my opinion was its length. 3 acts and over 3 hours long, I think they dragged it out a little too much. There were parts of the show that could have easily have been edited out, but that said its a minor criticism of a fabulous show. Though I will be honest the ending was a little weak by my liking. I think I would have liked to seen Byron go out with a bang. When his past catches up with him which results in him being brutally beaten and branded, he commits suicide by torching his caravan, at least that is what you are supposed to believe. These final moments were strung out and in my opinion just lacked the adrenalin that it needed to finish the show in a dramatic fashion.
The scenery however was in a league of its own. It is by far the best and most realistic set I have ever seen. You could easily think you were in a forest, the trees and shrubbery were so real, the addition of live chickens (among other creatures) gave you a sense that you really were among the great out doors. I have seen many shows but not a single set has come close to the design of Jerusalem. Whoever designed it is a genius! I think it is too easy to forget the people behind the scenes who make shows like this happen. So a fantastic job Mr set designer, whoever you may be!
In all, a little long but outstanding throughout, the show was bursting with quality. Its just a shame it was only on for a limited season, I think it could have gone on for a couple more months or more with ease. The extremely limited availability of tickets would back this up too. But thats life I suppose.