I didn’t get to see Jez Butterworth‘s West-End-and-Broadway smash Jerusalem, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when, a couple of months ago, I sat down to read the script for his new play. I had been invited to go along to rehearsals to talk to the cast about memory, not least because The River is about fishing, and it’s a fishing memory that opens my new book Pieces of Light.
I found it a fascinating, deliciously subtle piece which was still shifting and resonating in my mind after my several readings. When I went along to rehearsals to meet the team, it was confirmed to me that the play is very much about how memories define us and trap us. The script dealt expertly with the several different kinds of memory involved in the story, from elaborated, self-defining memories of childhood to shocking shards of trauma. I’d gone along very early in rehearsals, and was looking forward to seeing how the play developed over the rest of the rehearsal period and the first few performances.
On Thursday I was lucky enough to see the production for real. The professional reviewers have done a better job of reviewing it than I could, and so I’ll just say that I loved it. Three(-ish; there’s a plot point about that) complex and intriguing characters were brought to life by outstanding performances, and there were some electric moments as the power relations among the lovers shifted cataclysmically. There is a scene involving a scarlet dress which is one of the most compelling things I’ve seen on stage. The play is also very funny. I’d been told to sneak a peek at the bookshelf on the set, and I was thrilled to see my book up there, looking out over the fishing hut in which all the events unfold.
If you get a chance to catch this amazing play, do go and see it.