Rylance gives away his Tony to Wiltshire builder


Jonathan Brown
Friday 29 July 2011 00:00

It was hardly Broadway, but yesterday in his local pub where he has been routinely banned over the past three decades, Mickey Lay, 71, was celebrating his improbable entry into the annals of theatre history in the way he knows best – with a few pints of lager.

The former itinerant took possession of a coveted Tony award given to him by the actor Mark Rylance in recognition of the insight Mr Lay provided into the role of Johnny "Rooster" Byron in the play Jerusalem, which is currently on Broadway in New York. A twice-married father of four, Mr Lay enjoys a questionable reputation among the locals at the Moonrakers pub in the Wiltshire village of Pewsey.

But he struck up a special bond with the double Tony-winning actor during Rylance's research into the play, which is based on the village of Pewsey, where the writer Jez Butterworth lived in the 1990s. At the time, Mr Lay, a former builder, was living in a caravan.

Rylance said: "I think he'd really like it. He was very generous with me and invited me into his house and talked with me for six hours or so on different occasions about his life as a Romany gypsy man in England."

The pub landlord, Jerry Kunkler, who accepted the award on behalf of his most problematic regular during a visit to New York, said he has had occasion to ban Mr Lay 20 times over the past 30 years but that he was welcome back – for now.

Mr Kunkler said when he presented the award to Mr Lay yesterday, the man was overwhelmed: "He didn't really say much although he did open up after a few liveners."

Initially Mr Lay had sent Rylance packing. "But they developed a friendship and he thinks a lot about him," Mr Kunkler said.

Jerusalem recently extended its run on Broadway before a planned return to the London stage in October.

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