Walking to Jerusalem – Dublin Theatre Festival – Review
by Phoebe Moore
Until Oct 6th, 2019
Treading borders, treading boards
The Balfour declaration, 2nd of November 1917: an innocuous piece of paper that single handedly changed history. A history that is still being written today, 3,183 kilometres away from London where this statement was first signed.
“His majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”
Skip on 100 years from these political pages and a brutal war still wages, “a catastrophe for both peoples” as Justin Butcher aptly puts it in his one man show, Walking to Jerusalem. Butcher is an activist and an actor who in 2017 staged a ‘solidarity walk’ for the people of Palestine all the way from London to Jerusalem. Through the unfoldings of the show we, the audience, metaphorically follow Butcher and his companions as they complete this pilgrimage through Dover, the “herpes infected shit hole of the U.K.”, France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Jordan and finally to the holy city on the centenary of the Balfour declaration. Eleven borders crossed and a British apology to the Palestinian people.
An intimate theatre and a smaller stage does little to contain the boundless energy of a bearded Butcher who, messiah like, carries us through journal entries of beautiful prose and snippets of interaction, impersonating a plethora of colourful characters from the route. His indefatigable presence as an actor makes it easy to believe that it was indeed he who achieved this noble feat, blisters and all, two years ago. Sadly however, this performance sometimes misses its punches: an audience on the receiving end of a breathless monologue may require more help engaging than tired walkers. Rousing emotions, I can’t help but feel, is perhaps more effective if they are allowed to be felt rather than fed. Standing at 80 minutes long this walk to Jerusalem may leave some members behind and some requiring breathing space. Emphatic intent and writing paired with a sonorous audio visual montage by Damien Hale and David Shepard create a piece of artful activism but theatre that sadly falls short of entirely moving.
Written and performed by Justin Butcher
Directed by Matilda Reith
Music and Sound: Jack C. Arnold
Video Design: Damian Hale and David Shepherd