Set in the trenches at Saint-Quentin, Aisne, in 1918 towards the end of the First World War, Journey’s End gives a glimpse into the experiences of the officers of a British Army infantry company in World War I.
The entire story plays out in the officers’ dugout over four days from 18 March 1918 to 21 March 1918 and examines the experiences endured by several officers during the First World War. The themes of loss, hope and sacrifice that are highlighted by the play are as old as the history of conflict itself.
RC Sheriff’s ground-breaking play remains one of the most powerful and successful pieces of modern drama and one of the most acclaimed examples of literature that deals with the tragedy and horror of war.
I’m not entirely sure how to go about writing a theatre review, as I’m neither a thespian nor a frequent theatre-goer (though I do want to change this!) The theatre wasn’t very full, which was a shame because every empty seat meant some unlucky person was missing out on seeing a wonderful show!
I booked myself a ticket to see Journey’s End at the Seymour Centre as it fell right when I finished uni and I knew the theme of the play would be an amazing contribution to my understanding of war literature. It also (unintentionally) fell on Remembrance Day, which was a fantastic time for seeing this production. So I spent the day attending a service, then dropping in to the State Library of New South Wales to see their Remember Me: The Lost Diggers of Vignacourt exhibition (which was also really, really good). The finale for the evening was Journey’s End, which I was quite looking forward to. Little did I know that this would make me second guess everything I’ve done so far in my research!
The play and acting were absolutely flawless. I’m a critical thing, but I cannot fault the acting or the script. The depth of feeling from the actors was fantastic- there were tears in their eyes at many points. As I was sitting front and centre, there was no divide between me and the stage, which is set at floor level, which meant there was nothing to interrupt my impression that I was right there with them in the dugout. I flinched, jumped and felt like jumping up and giving a few of the actors a hug at several points in the show!
Andrew George, who played Stanhope, gave off an air of utter power and vulnerability. As he guzzled whisky and became more and more distraught, you definitely came to understand and pity him, despite his occasional cruelty towards the other characters. Raleigh was played by (a very gorgeous) Jack Douglas, who gave off the perfect amount of good nature and naiveté. Will Usic played a darling Osbourne, who was mostly the reason I wanted to hug people. Hibbert and Trotter, played by Jeremy Bridie and Yannick Lawry respectively, were fantastic and played their characters to perfection. All the other supporting cast were equally as amazing!
Hibbert, Stanhope and Raleigh all show symptoms of shell shock, to varying degrees. The actors did amazingly well to show their pain with sympathy and respect, adding to my aforementioned feeling of actually being there with the soldiers as they awaited the German attack.
I thoroughly enjoyed this production and feel that it gave the audience the perfect amount of drama and reality. I cried my way through several scenes, thoroughly involved in the story and the utter horror and pointlessness of what the characters were experiencing. The sight of Raleigh after being sent over the top was heartbreaking and will stay with me for a very long time. Proceeds are also going to Legacy, which is a wonderful cause.
Journey’s End runs at the Seymour Centre until 15th November 2014.