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Mark Rylance in Jerusalem
Photograph: Simon Annand

‘Jerusalem’ is back! Jez Butterworth’s landmark play set to return to London in 2021

Chris Waywell

In the best bit of news that London theatre audiences have had in flipping ages, ‘super-producer’ Sonia Friedman obliquely announced today via Instagram that the epochal theatrical smash ‘Jerusalem’ by Jez Butterworth would be back on our stages next year, with Mark Rylance revisiting his role as Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron.

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Rooster’s ready! See You Next Year... #Jerusalem #HappyStGeorgesDay

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‘Jerusalem’ was first staged back in 2009 at the Royal Court Theatre. The story of a marginalised gang of misfits, boozers and drug-takers facing eviction by their local council, its portrayal of England’s grim rural underbelly chimed with a growing sense of national dissatisfaction and it received glowing reviews before transferring to the West End and playing on Broadway. Rylance’s embodiment of the charismatic but doomed Rooster was singled out as a landmark performance on the London stage. Our own Theatre editor (no less) called Rylance’s performance ‘The best thing I have ever seen in a theatre.’ Read our five-star review from 2011.

The announcement is cannily timed. ‘Jerusalem’ is set on St George’s Day, April 23. Its England is broken but spirited, trapped in a kind of perpetual, authoritarian, poverty-induced lockdown (‘The world turns. And it turns. And it moves and you don’t. You're still here.’). At the same time, the news of its return to our stage is exactly the kind of boost that theatres need right now. If nothing else, ‘Jerusalem’ proved that a difficult play, presenting an unlovely aspect of England and with a cast not full of people off the telly could (almost) become a household name. Getting original director Ian Rickson and Mark Rylance back on board is the speed-spiked icing on the cake.

‘Jerusalem’ by Jez Butterworth will return to the London stage, venue TBC, in 2021. Watch our Theatre pages for updates.

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