Jez Butterworth

I heard Jez Butterworth being interviewed at a small literary festival recently. Inevitably much was focused on Jerusalem - a play that few would disagree is a theatrical event the like of which appears rarely. How much of its impact is down to Mark Rylance whose Rooster Byron, the play's charismatic anti-hero, is such a tour de force? Butterworth was generous and humble about this.

He wrote a first iteration of Jerusalem for the Royal Court nearly ten years ago - and it was a disaster that he put in a drawer to forget. He met Rylance quite recently and asked him down to stay at his home on Exmoor. One evening, by the fire, Rylance read Ted Hughes's Daffodils. The hairs on the back of his neck were up and he realised that he had that rare opportunity to create something exceptional for an actor of greatness - and that he had better not mess it up. This and a deadline. He talked a lot about deadlines.

He is a writer for the theatre for a good reason. He asked us to imagine a cinema with an audience of two and then the same in a theatre. In the cinema a tiny audience would make no difference but in the theatre it would be a disaster because there is always a two-way interaction with the stage that, at its best, lifts the experience to a place that the cinema cannot go.

He was interesting about the creative process. He was driving one day and a line popped into his head: 'Rooster Byron called down a curse on Kennet and Avon District Council'. Just like that. From this came Jerusalem. And the secondary characters? He described it as like opening a door and finding a room full of people already there. I get that.

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