Jerusalem, a bold comic vision of life in contemporary rural England, was first performed at the Royal Court, London, on 10 July 2009. Following ecstatic critical reception, it transferred to the Apollo Theatre in the West End on 28 January 2010, with The Guardian hailing the play as ‘unarguably one of the best dramas of the twenty-first century.’
On St George’s Day, the morning of the local country fair, officials from Kennet and Avon Council come to evict Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron. An ex-stunt driving Romany, Johnny lives in a battered mobile home in a Wessex wood opposite a new estate, dealing drugs, telling yarns and attracting a motley crew of wastrels and youngsters. Adding to his troubles, Dawn, the mother of his six-year-old son Marky, pays him a visit, berating him for his inability to live up to his responsibilities as a parent. On top of which, the young May Queen due to appear at the fair has gone missing, and Troy, her father, holds Johnny responsible. Through it all, Johnny remains defiant, claiming a mystical affinity with the ancient giants who once inhabited England.
The Royal Court production was directed by Ian Rickson and designed by Ultz. The cast was led by Mark Rylance as Johnny 'Rooster' Byron in a mesmerisingly physical performance that did much to create the play's legendary status.
The play opened on Broadway on 21 April 2011 at the Music Box Theatre, following previews from 2 April 2011, with Mark Rylance again in the lead role. It returned to the West End in London, playing at the Apollo from 8 October 2011 until 14 January 2012.
Jerusalem won the Evening Standard Best Play Award and the Critics Circle and Whatsonstage.com awards for Best New Play.