British playwright R.C. Sherriff’s drama JOURNEY’S END presents a detailed and harrowing account of the hell that is war fought in the trenches.
A classic of its genre, Sherriff’s play was wrought out of his experiences as an officer in the trenches during the First World War. The play was first performed on the 9th December 1928 at London’s Apollo Theatre, in a production by the Incorporated Stage Society, and starred a very young Laurence Olivier.
The setting is Saint-Quentin, Aisne, France, at a British Army infantry officers’ dugout located just 75 yards from enemy trenches during four days, between the 18th March and the 21st March, 1918, poised very close to the end of the War. It focuses on the interactions between five officers and the Colonel, and depicts the camaraderie between the officers with poignancy.
Will Usic helms this Theatre Troupe revival skilfully, (as well as playing a central role in the piece), and wins strong, emotional performances from the entire cast. The battle-wearied, despairing outlook of the soldiers on life in the trenches, is well conveyed.
Andrew George gives an outstanding performance as Captain Dennis Stanhope, who is looked up to for his bravery. The play shows the other side to the Captain, a man who is only able to function after he has drowned his fears daily with an entire bottle of whiskey, each and every day of his rotation to the front line trenches.
Will Usic’s strong performance as Osbourne (Uncle) is another highlight, as is the British stiff upper lip performance, expertly delivered by Richard Cotter, playing the hard-to-please Colonel who is simply following orders.
Toby Knyvett’s skilled lighting design, fully complements the minimalist but very effective set design (uncredited) of the dug out, plus the atmospheric sound design (also uncredited) adds to the drama as the soldiers are constantly on the alert for the next attack/charge to take place. We so vividly witness the damage to the psyche that war service brings about.
This production has been presented to coincide with the 2014 centenary commemorations of the First World War. The full cast is Andrew George, Will Usic, Yannick Lawry, Jack Douglas, Jeremy Bridie, Richard Cotter, Ian Bezzina, Jim Robison, Steve Tait.
Highly Recommended, The Theatre Troupe’s production of R.C. Sherriff’s JOURNEY’S END is playing the Reginald Theatre at the Seymour Centre until the 15th November.