Jez Butterworth’s Jerusalem charts the life of loveable rogue Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron as he fights eviction from his secluded caravan by the local council. “Imagine King Arthur reincarnated as a troll,” quipped The Times, and you have an understanding of the main character.
As a finance structure, the backing for Jerusalem was relatively straightforward and demonstrates the benefit of maintaining a large store of capital from previous projects in securing further investment, negotiating preferable rates of return and attracting in-kind support which carries a far higher value than its financial return. With the majority of the budget already potentially covered by the proceeds from Endgame, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore and the returns from an investment in Othello, the Commensal team were in a particularly strong position going into Jerusalem. Rather than the typical search for sufficient funds, decisions were motivated by a desire to limit exposure, while producer Andrew Hall and director Will Felton could rest safe in the knowledge that the show would not go unfunded. Moreover, by reducing their immediate exposure, Andrew was able to negotiate a finance package with outside investors, which sees them securing a healthy return on their money at above-market rate, securely backed by the disposable capital in the Commensal pot. In other words, if the play made a loss, the team would still be in a position to meet their obligations rather than default.
Such a strategy obviously gives confidence to investors, and three core backers have reduced the input from the Commensal account to a minority stake; in return, the London-based theatre company is capable of underwriting over half of their investment returns. From a personal perspective, notes the producer, the Commensal account has been a tremendously satisfying vehicle to work with in launching large-scale creative projects. Spending on ’Tis Pity was near-unprecedented for a show at Oxford’s O’Reilly Theatre, but was met with returns on the same scale and earned almost 165% of its costs back in just one week. Knowing the venue and the most economical approach to running a spectacular show in there, director Will Felton can now apply the funding package to his project without worrying about its chances of success.
Tickets for Jerusalem at the O’Reilly Theatre will go on general sale in October. Check back soon for more details.