The Watermill Theatre has a bit of a coup on their hands. Their latest production is the first
From this deceptively simple set-up, and without leaving the setting of Rooster's caravan, Butterworth's play offers a snapshot of the state of rural England, of village life, teenage rebellion, and the place of folklore in modern Britain. The play is often hilarious, but darkens as the storm clouds gather over Rooster. It feels fascinating to return to the play removed from the hype that surrounded it nine years ago. With its place amongst theatre's greats etched in stone, one can now deconstruct
This production stands or falls on its central performance. Rooster Byron is a complicated, frustrating, compelling character; a wonderful challenge for whichever actor takes it on. In Jasper Britton's magnificent performance, the Watermill has its second coup of the night. Britton explodes on stage, bringing a velocity that hits the audience hard. He's charismatic, funny, obnoxious, and domineering, everything Byron needs to be. And yet as effective as he is at capturing Byron's passion and unsettling charisma, Britton is at his best in the quieter moments. There are a few touching moments in the final act that capture the paradoxical nature of Byron.
Director Lisa Blair marshals Butterworth's text into an effective, compelling production with a talented ensemble surrounding Britton's lead. Her direction successfully finds the rhythm that allows the play to breathe, switching between the sound and fury of the more propulsive moments to the hushed tones necessary for the audience to feel the impact of proceedings. Frankie Bradshaw's set is magnificent, though I'm not sure you could cram much more onto the stage of the Watermill Theatre without it losing the ability to fulfil its primary purpose as a performing space.
This is my second trip to the woodlands surrounding Flintock and this production makes for a fascinating evening to return to Butterworth's play. You are reminded that