Sunday, 12 October 2014

Review: 'Journey's End'

Based on his real experiences of the trenches, R. C. Sherriff writes Journey’s End as a gripping yet humanised glimpse into just a few days of living on the front line. When young officer Raleigh joins his childhood hero and family friend Stanhope in the trenches, three years of experience in the nightmare of warfare has entirely changed his hero who has turned to whisky to cope with the trauma. It is a moving, thought provoking piece, performed admirably by the York DramaSoc cast. 

On entry into the barn, I felt like I had taken steps back through time into a war bunker. The space had been transformed into the dark and dirty hell of the trenches, and I was impressed by the great detail in which the crew had gone into in order to create an authentic looking set. It was clear that a lot of time and thought had gone into this, and credit must be given to everyone involved in this superb recreation. The seating was set very close to the stage, which invites the audience to become part of the action, making the emotions running through the play cut deeper and feel more intense. 

The play itself was very well performed. Whilst it seems slightly lacking in plot line (which actually appears to be representative of the pace of the life in the trenches) the play makes up for this in the beautifully written script and it’s representation of each character and the wonderful relationships between them. Throughout the two hours spent in the barn, I became absorbed in the play and felt so much sympathy towards each of the characters, that some of the most intense scenes left me with a sickening lump in my throat.

All of the characters were flawlessly performed, and the development of the relationships between each of the officers had clearly been a main priority when rehearsing this play. Special mention must be given to Sam Hill who played Stanhope and Josh Welch who played Raleigh, for their outstanding and heart-breaking performance of this tragic friendship. Sam Hill flawlessly portrayed the traits of his complex character; a world-weary, bitter captain with an intense heart. Ross Cronshaw also played an excellent Osborne, successfully portraying the level headed father-figure of the group of men. 

However, amidst the grave wartime setting, comic characters like Trotter (James Dixon) and Mason (Tim Kelly) provided an ongoing sense of continuing everyday life, which made the situation feel real, a significant contrast to the intense seriousness of much of the rest of the play. Both characters were well performed, adding a light relief and a humanistic feel which R. C. Sherriff wanted to create with this play.
Unlike many wartime productions, Journey’s End is authentic and honest. We are presented not with over glorified battles and super heroes, but real men, real lives and real emotion. Edd Riley has directed an incredibly touching production which should not be missed. A fantastic start to the term, I highly recommend this performance. 

By Sinead Hammond
URY Speech Theatre Liaison

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