Set in the relative luxury of their quarters as Senior Officers and Commanders, the play runs a risk of being another creaky middle class war drama. In reality, it is incredibly far removed from this. Written by RC Sheriff in the 1920s, the play is based on his personal experiences of life in the trenches, and with no anti-war or patriotic agenda, this renders the play all the more powerful.
Sheriffs’ writing is both witty and biting, captivating the audience with a poignancy and humour that is consuming. The acting is a triumph; James Norton plays Captain Stanhope’s troubled and heroic character with a realism that carries play through to its climatic end. Simon Harrison (2nd Lieutenant Hibbert) portrays a man struggling with the emotional and psychological strains of warfare with a poignant accuracy that is simply devastating. The character of “Uncle” (played by Dominic Mafham) was the most of all characters to inch towards the wrong side of cliché, with his perfect fatherly ways supporting all the other younger man, with a clear negative impact on his own psychological well-being. However, when Uncle lays down his belongings in his last five minutes before going over the top, the reality of the situation and this man’s relentlessly supportive nature becomes all too apparent. Mafham carries himself in a way that makes his character almost uncomfortable to look at and his sad, abating smiles are utterly heartbreaking.
The final moments of the play thrust the audience deep into the sounds of trench warfare, something which is both beautifully understated and monumentally affecting. Although the script is beautifully written, the set, production and acting is executed with technical brilliance, it is the simple reality of the narrative that makes Journey’s End so unmissible. Journey’s End is, without doubt, a play that I will not be forgetting any time soon.
Journey’s End is on at Leeds Grand Theatre 17 May 2011 – 21 May 2011 , call the box office on 0844 848 2706 to book your tickets.
Written by Kirsty Hulse, let her know your thoughts on Journey’s End in the comments below or on Twitter here.