LONDON — There’s mighty, after which there’s Mark Rylance in “Jerusalem,” a efficiency so powerfully related to its half that it feels nearly superhuman. That’s correctly for a play a couple of larger-than-life character named Johnny Byron, who calls for a wholly fearless actor, and has one in Rylance.
None of this can shock these accustomed to this play by Jez Butterworth, which premiered with Rylance within the lead function on the Royal Courtroom right here in 2009; two years later, it transferred to Broadway and gained Rylance the second of three Tony Awards. In an exciting revival that opened Thursday on the Apollo Theater (operating by way of Aug. 7), every little thing feels enriched by time.
Now 62, Rylance is significantly older than a person described within the textual content as “about 50.” However such is that this actor’s boundless power and enthusiasm possible him returning to the function repeatedly: Johnny defies all conventions, together with these of age, and so does a wildly versatile actor who approaches this societal insurgent as a kindred spirit.
The inventive workforce, headed by Ian Rickson, probably the most empathic of administrators, is identical because it was in 2009. To this run’s credit score, it’s no museum piece coasting on previous kudos, however a significant expertise with a revitalizing impact. Standing ovations are commonplace right here as of late, however the one at Wednesday’s ultimate preview possessed a singular fervor that had Rylance leaping up and down with childlike glee on the curtain name.
Within the present, Johnny, who goes by the nickname Rooster, walks with a halting gait that goes unexplained. Bodily impediments, it appears, barely matter to this tattooed, barrel-chested reprobate, who performs a headstand inside minutes of his arrival onstage. He then downs a mix of vodka, milk and a uncooked egg, whose shell Rylance tosses into the viewers. (On Wednesday, somebody tossed the shell again, prompting a scrumptious double take from the star.)
Johnny’s outsize gestures are these of a person whose defiantly reckless existence is underneath critical risk. Whereas the agricultural group wherein he lives is holding its annual spring fete to mark St. George’s Day, Johnny tenaciously stays on the beat-up trailer he has lengthy referred to as dwelling. A magnet for a cross-section of native hangers-on, together with a loquacious professor (a gorgeous flip from Alan David) and underage feminine adolescents hungry for spliffs and intercourse, Johnny’s unlawful encampment is quickly to be bulldozed. His younger son arrives for a go to, solely to be whisked away by the kid’s disapproving mom (a persuasive Indra Ové).
Not solely is Johnny confronted with a ultimate order from authorities officers to maneuver on, however he should confront the wrath of Troy Whitworth (a fearsome Barry Sloane), whose 15-year-old stepdaughter, Phaedra, has sought refuge with Johnny. Troy will go to violent lengths to assert her again.
It’s Phaedra (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) who opens the play, singing the English hymn that offers “Jerusalem” its title and whose lyricist, William Blake, is referenced throughout a sport of Trivial Pursuit afterward. Worthington-Cox delivers this most stirring of tunes in entrance of a drop curtain depicting the cross of St. George, England’s flag. However the play itself transcends nationality to talk to any disaffected outsider who gained’t be simply silenced and who gathers acolytes like moths to an inextinguishable flame.
I’ve now seen “Jerusalem” 5 occasions (together with on Broadway), and Rickson’s present firm — a number of of them holdovers, with Rylance — are pretty much as good as any predecessors, and generally higher: Worthington-Cox is probably the most shifting Phaedra I’ve skilled.
Mackenzie Criminal stays particularly heartbreaking as Ginger, Johnny’s good friend and ally whose haunted eyes convey a premonition that his buddy’s days are numbered. Jack Riddiford, an organization newcomer, brings a boyish attraction to the function of Lee, who goals of beginning afresh in Australia however is grateful for the raucous good occasions that Johnny has made doable on dwelling soil.
You may think about one or two of those characters as avid supporters of Brexit, although the thought didn’t exist when Butterworth wrote the play: The sweary abattoir-worker Davey (Ed Kear, one other forged newcomer) doesn’t “see the purpose,” he says, of different international locations, together with neighboring Wales. British newspapers have been busily assessing “Jerusalem” as a defining state-of-the-nation commentary whose legacy and affect are incalculable. Butterworth has stayed out of the dialogue, saying solely that he revived the play so his younger daughter, Bel, may see it.
However such issues are educational subsequent to the visceral immediacy of a play that soars as excessive because the designer Ultz’s ravishing tree-filled set, which appears to comb up past the theater’s roof. That huge attain is of a bit with a efficiency you would possibly describe as once-in-a-lifetime, if it weren’t so evident that Rylance’s ardour for this half, thank goodness, appears removed from over but.
By means of Aug. 7 on the Apollo Theater, London; jerusalemtheplay.co.uk.