Jerusalem: a recreative task

25-06-2019 13:06

This is a draft from one of my former students, Tom Salter, of the opening of a putative Act 4 of Jerusalem. He wrote this for OCR A level Literature NEA.

I post it unedited and unassessed for use in classes beginning to work on the task and needing something to consider and develop as a method of becoming familiar with the mark scheme…

JERUSALEM Coursework

 

A traditional, English pub. Pieces of worn, mahogany furniture are scattered about the stage in the form of tables and stools. Behind the bar, a torn, withered English flag is draped across a mirror, the surface of the mirror riddled with crevices and cracks. Beside the bar counter is a barrel of “Wadworth 6X” ale – above that barrel, a menu of alcopops, and spirits.

GINGER sits at the counter, his figure hunched over a glass of beer. He seems tired, and like the rest of the pub, worn. WESLEY is stood behind the bar, cleaning glasses and drying them with a small cloth. He puts the final glass in to a crate, and walks out of the room, crate in hand, through a door at the back of the bar. GINGER remains seated.

The door to the pub creaks open. JOHNNY appears.

J: Alright, Tootle?

G: Oh fuck.

WESLEY walks in with a new batch of glasses to wash. He sees JOHNNY. He drops the crate, stunned. Glasses smash on to the floor, fragments of them cascading off in to different directions. Silence.

W: Jesus Christ.

J: What? You didn’t think I’d be gone for forever now, did ya’?

W: What the fuck are you doing back here?

J: Simple. I was back in the neighbourhood. Thought I’d pop round and say a quick hello.

W: It’s been 2 years Johnny.

J: It has indeed.

W: It’s 2AM.

J: Yup.

W: Where have you been?

J: Biding my time, Wesley. Biding my time. All this hiding hasn’t been for nothing. If you really knew what I’d been doing- well, you’d be surprised actually. After my brief show-down with the Council, I had to sit back. Recuperate. Get the blood flowing back through my loins.

W: Get out.

J: What? Just like that, you’re throwing me to the geese? I haven’t even had a pint yet…

W: I said get out!

JOHNNY sits down on a bar stool next to GINGER.

J: Missed this. (Stroking the wood of the bar) The laughing. The pints. (Pause.) You know what really happened out there Wesley? Do ya’? I’ve been hearin’ a lot of awful things about you Wesley, and I hope they ain’t true.

W: Oh fuck off, Johnny.

J: Y’see, they told me everything, after the raid. Friday it was. I was settled back, feet-up, smoking a joint, in the little armchair I have round the front of the van. Y’know – the black one? Leather? Anyhow, I’m sat there, feet up, and I start seeing these torches being shone on the hill. A bunch of ‘em, like a wave of fireflies, slowly eatin’ up the knoll. I start counting. 500 men, 30 dogs. All of them, coming for me. Then I hear the back-up brigade. Tanks. Panzers. Four of ‘em. Saunderin’ over the hill and ‘ttacking from the East. They’re big brutes too, mind you. Got those big rifle things on the top of thems heads. And special armour for protection. And that ain’t the last of it. ‘Cos ya’ still have them choppers. ‘Wulfs, they were. Could’ve called them from a mile off. Rotors cuttin’ clean through the wind; proper stealth-like, soft. Could barely hear a sound. Everything was quiet, y’see? A mouse would’ve made more noise than them lot. (Pause.) But what they don’t know, is I can crush mice. Make ‘em squeal, if I want. These hands of mine aren’t coarse for nothing…

 

 

 

COMMENTARY

Pride in an English heritage is a common theme within Butterworth’s ‘Jerusalem’. The comma in the first line: ‘A traditional, English pub’ highlights this, as its function is to emphasise the word ‘English’ This imitates the sense of national pride that Butterworth often expresses in his play, and brings attention toward the pub’s national identity.

However, this patriotism can often be undermined by society’s hypocritical nature. The use of an ‘English flag’ concealing a mirror ‘riddled with cracks’ indicates that people hide the inadequate efforts made to service their past by pretending to be patriotic. The mirror’s ‘riddle’ of crevices is particularly important, because it emphasises the extent of damage that has been done to society, as the surface beneath the flag is so beaten and vandalised.

Furthermore, the perverseness of society is expressed through the positioning of ‘alcopops’ amongst spirits and ale. Wesley, in particular, behaves in an irresponsible way amongst the youths of society, as shown in ‘Jerusalem’ as Johnny states: ‘It’s not like you don’t serve kids.’ The alcopops (which are bought by children) are being placed amongst substances that are illegal for child consumption, thus showing that society is content with breaking the law and acting cynically amongst minors.

Character themes are also emphasised in the extract, and the most obvious of these is through the comment made about Ginger. As Johnny calls Ginger: ‘Tootle’, there is a definite association made between the character of Ginger, and the child Tootle from the ‘Lost Boys’. This promotes the idea that Ginger is lost, and struggling to find a purpose in the town of Flintock amongst the youths and adults of society – a regular dilemma for the character that Butterworth himself raises.

However, the most controversial character of the passage, and the most notorious, should not be ignored. Johnny Byron immediately creates an impression on the audience as he ‘appears’ at the open door of the pub. Throughout ‘Jerusalem’, Butterworth portrays Byron as an ancient, and magical creature. His ‘appearance’, as if out of thin air, prompts further questioning of Johnny’s origins, and makes the audience believe that he does possess some magical capabilities. Moreover, the mystical connotations surrounding Johnny can similarly be associated with Pan, the ‘God of the Pastoral.’ Although Pan is renowned for his fertility and outrageous behaviour, he still belongs to a group of esteemed (Greek) Gods that always provoked wonder and fascination, and this places further emphasis on Johnny’s magical aura.

Furthermore, Johnny’s more rebellious attitude is emphasised as he proceeds to ‘sit down on the bar stool’ after Wesley orders him to: ‘Get out!’ This behaviour is similar to what we would see from Johnny Byron in Butterworth’s original ‘Jerusalem’; instead of complying with instructions, Johnny acts in the same reckless and inattentive manner that we so often hear about, as he entertains the children with parties and drug-abusing escapades. This instance re-emphasises Johnny’s constant opposition against the wishes of society, and acts as a tribute to his disobedient character.

However, one of the most important themes that is addressed through the introduction of Johnny Byron, is the case of the ‘pastoral vs. modernity’. Johnny’s monologue initially utilises the same technicalities as Butterworth’s ‘Jerusalem’ – he speaks with continuous staccato phrases, and this sentence structure can be contrasted with his long, more elegant lines of story-telling. We can then identify the use of simile as Johnny describes ‘the waves of fireflies eating up the knoll’, and this emphasises the force and numbers supporting the Council. Whereas Johnny (representing the pastoral) seems isolated and alone, the Council (representing urbanity) possesses strength and men, and this links to the theme of imbalance of conflict between the technologically-advanced, contemporary society, and the old-fashioned, ancient England of the past. To re-emphasise this idea of conflict, the passage also makes reference to ‘Wulfs’ and ‘Panzers’ that highlight the power of Johnny’s enemies, whilst also conveniently being named after German vehicles from the Second World War. This connection with Germany confirms our impression of the Council as enemies, and even with simple technicalities such as local ‘Wadsworth 6X’ being positioned under the more modern alcohols of ‘spirits’, we can identify the most prominent theme in the passage: the fear of an overpowering, and overly destructive, urban class.

 

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