A slick, violent black comedy set in the Soho clubland of the1950s, Mojo premiered at the Royal Court, London, on 14 July 1995. It was a sensational debut, billed as the first time since John Osborne's Look Back in Anger that a first play was premiered on the Royal Court's main stage – though in fact Butterworth had co-written several earlier plays and a short film, The Night of the Golden Brain (Carlton, 1994).
The play is set in Ezra's Atlantic Club in Soho during the summer of 1958. Silver Johnny, Ezra's seventeen-year-old rock 'n' roll protégé, is causing a sensation at the club. Two petty crooks, Sweets and Potts, high on amphetamines, introduce us to this criminal milieu. They are joined by two others, Skinny, and Baby, who is Ezra's son. Baby enjoys tormenting, even torturing, Skinny. While the youngsters mess about, a local gangster, Sam Ross, kills Ezra, and takes Silver Johnny. Terrified, the gang, now led by Mickey (Ezra's number two) barricade themselves in the club and prepare for an attack. Although he is Ezra's son and heir, Baby realises that Mickey is now in charge and suggests they run the club together, but Mickey rejects him. In the power struggle that ensues, Baby demonstrates that he's more than a match for Mickey – and nobody escapes unscathed.
The Royal Court premiere, directed by Ian Rickson and designed by Ultz, starred Tom Hollander as Baby, with Andy Serkis as Potts, Matt Bardock as Sweets, Aiden Gillen as Skinny, and David Westhead as Mickey. The production was restaged in October 1996 with a new cast at the Royal Court's temporary base at the Duke of York's Theatre in the West End.
Critical reception was generally enthusiastic, although some perceived a moral void at the heart of the story, and the play was widely compared with the films of Quentin Tarantino and the plays of Harold Pinter.
Mojo won the Olivier, Evening Standard, George Devine, Critics' Circle and Writers' Guild awards. Versions of the play were produced in New York, Chicago, Johannesburg and Sydney, its popularity making it one of the most significant plays of the decade.