Anarchy in the U.K.
Green Valley Theatre Company has been the local British importer of late. Its last production, Blood Brothers, was the little-produced but impressive musical based in Liverpool. And now the company is the first theater group outside of New York City’s Broadway to stage the 2009 English hit Jerusalem, an odd play about the struggling economic woes of British youth with a story that’s set largely in the trashed trailer of a drugged-out aging party dude.
Blood Brothers worked because the story is compelling and universal, with a great score. Jerusalem, on the other hand, is much more regionally oriented, and harder to embrace with its problematic plot, which is probably why local theater companies have not been lining up to produce this show.
The opening scene is revealed when a stage-length red-cross St. George flag drops to show a dilapidated trailer in the English countryside, littered with cast-off furniture and scattered trash. Emerging from the rubble is a wobbly, bleary-eyed Johnny “Rooster” Byron, whose character is quickly marked by his choice of breakfast shake—a raw egg, vodka, Red Bull and cocaine.
Byron has become the pied piper of disillusioned youth, who gather at his squalid campsite to drink, drug and dance. And on this day, when the county puts on its annual fair, the local young people are ripe with mockery of the monarch, a lackluster call for anarchy, and the bemoaning of any viable future for the local young people.
The production values are consistent with Green Valley’s first-rate staging—great set and spot-on costumes. Unfortunately, both the play itself and the lead performance are a bit problematic. One main problem is the accents—there’s a cornucopia of heavy cockneyesque dialect that makes it hard to understand the dialogue, and a disconcerting, noticeable lack of accent on the part of Jay Patrick, who portrays Byron. While Patrick does have the cock in his walk, he mostly brays his displeasures without layering his character with any subtleties that would have made him more sympathetic and relatable.
The rest of the cast looks like they are having fun frolicking in debauchery, but the story as unveiled in this production and its violent ending leave much to be desired.