Perhaps the folk-horror element comes from the fact that more and more Brits are finding the countryside itself dark and ominous, a place from another world (no wifi). While there is a clear common thread of the bucolic that runs through Crook’s work – as well as Worzel and Detectorists, he starred in the original production of Jez Butterworth’s hit play Jerusalem, and plays a druid in the drama Sky. from Butterworth Britannia – there is also a feeling that nature is a mighty force beyond our control.
“There is something mysterious and unknown about this. I have this forest in Essex and in the height of summer when you walk in it’s so oppressive. There’s so much pollen and bugs in the air and things that itch and make you sneeze and you just think, “I’m not really invited here, I’m not really welcome.”
When we speak, Crook has yet to learn from Butterworth or director Ian Rickson how they’ll re-enact Jerusalem, which will be relaunched in the West End next year with most of the original cast from 2009, including Mark Rylance, who will reprise. his role as Rooster Byron, a mystical drug dealer living in a trailer in a Wiltshire forest.
When Crook first performed in the play, he was in his mid-thirties – he’s now 50. Will that change the way he approaches his performance? Crook recounts a moment during the first rehearsal when the cast visited Pewsey in Wiltshire, where Jerusalem is based (although in the play her name is Flintock), and he encountered inspiration for the character of Ginger. “And he was my age, in his fifties, he only had a few teeth left in his head but he thought he was a teenager.”
It will be instructive to see how the production treats men like Ginger and, in particular, Rylance’s rooster; older men who treat young girls with alcohol and drugs. Byron is not a man who fits into the MeToo era.
Nor, while we’re on the subject, non-PC David Brent. Crook hasn’t watched an episode of The Office “in years,” but his 18-year-old son Jude really loves him; his daughter Scout, 14, did not look at him. But the show still holds up, 20 years later, says Crook. “It hasn’t dated as much as I feared – but it’s a document of the time.”