Jerusalem (New Theatre)

New TheatreVenue: New Theatre (Newtown NSW), Aug 21 – Sep 14, 2013
Playwright: Jez Butterworth
Director: Helen Tonkin
Actors: Nicholas Eadie, Jeremy Waters, Peter Nettell, Emma Louise, Peter McAllum
Image by Matthias Engesser

Theatre review
Upon entering the theatre, one is immediately struck by the power of the production design. Set design in particular is a highlight of this production. Tom Bannerman’s conversion of the stage into a dramatically evocative backdrop is absolutely essential to the storytelling. The creation of five different entrances is intelligent, and along with lighting, mood is established long before the first actor appears.

Nicholas Eadie is charismatic in the lead role. He brings variety to his performance, which provides entertainment and also creates a character that is multi-faceted and mysterious. He does however, have inconsistencies with the accent in his speech that could be distracting for some audiences. Jeremy Waters is a delightful actor, full of vigour and presence. He plays Ginger with great flair, equally confident with comic as well as dramatic moments. Peter Nettell is scarily convincing in his portrayal of Wesley. It is a very committed and genuine performance that leaves a lasting impression in spite of the part being a smaller one.

At the heart of Jerusalem is a tale about land rights and commercialism. It has interesting parallels with contemporary Australian issues involving our Aboriginal communities and how they are situated within the economy. This English play makes arguments about territorial ownership in relation to ancestry and money, and how these tensions manifest socially. If Butterworth’s ideas had been applied to a more localised context, their impact could have been even greater. Instead, the show is left intact and unmodified from its foreignness, which gives it an eccentric and exotic quality, but it demands more from the audience, as its cultural specificity is at times challenging and complicated.