A review of Journey’s End

This has been a year of remembrance, and having marked the centenary of the start of the Great War with a production of Oh! What a Lovely War it was fitting that we should stage a production of Journey’s End in 2018. Lora (SFC2) suggested the play and took on the direction, with the support of a very strong cast and Mrs Revell as designer and set builder.

Playwright R.C. Sherriff had first-hand experience of the trenches. He served as an officer in the 9th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment, taking part in the fighting at Vimy Ridge and Loos. He was severely wounded at Passchendaele in 1917.

He went on to write many plays, including Journey’s End, and was also a successful scriptwriter. His script for The Dam Busters was nominated for a BAFTA award.

Journey’s End may be one of the best known plays about the First World War, but to the best of my knowledge the CLC production is the first all-female performance.

The entire action of the play is set in a trench on the Western Front. Stanhope, played by Alice M (UC5), is both a heroic figure, respected and loved by his men and fellow officers, and an alcoholic suffering from the effects of shell shock. Alice capably showed the increasing despair Stanhope feels as he is forced to obey orders which will send men to certain death. Indeed, not all the officers were able to summon up the courage to continue the fight, and in one of the most moving scenes in the production we saw Hibbert, played by Claire (SFC2), doing his best to find a medical reason to be sent back from the front.

Catie (SFC1), as Osborne, personified the courage of the men who, despite their youth, became noble and valiant soldiers in the face of the horrors of modern warfare. In contrast Victoria’s (SFC1) character, Raleigh, is a wet-behind-the-ears, hero-worshipping youngster fresh from public school. His death is the tragic conclusion of the play, bringing home to the audience the wastefulness and futility of war.

However, the play has its lighter moments, particularly those featuring the ever-hungry Trotter, played with great success by Adesola (UC5), and servant cook Mason, represented by Clio (UC5), who runs to and fro fetching fried bacon and cups of tea.

After the first few minutes it was easy to forget that these were young women playing male characters. Each member of the cast had such focus and belief in what was happening on stage that the audience was quite carried along by the action, with the smoke rolling over the barbed wire above the dug-out. Overall, this production was a powerful and moving way to summon up remembrance of that terrible sacrifice 100 years ago.

Mr M Smith, Director of Drama