Review by David Munro
I DID not see the original
cast of this production of Journey’s End (which
has been reviewed on this site) but if they were one half as good
as the cast I saw last night they justified the praise that has
been showered on them.
As everyone by now knows, the play deals with life and death
in the British trenches during the 1914 – 18 war, and way
that the various protagonists deal with the strains and stresses
that war and the conditions in the trenches place upon them.
The action is bracketed by the arrival and death of Raleigh,
a virtual schoolboy and, in a way, one views the action as he
The Captain in charge of the small unit billeted just behind
the front line is Stanhope, a man Raleigh had known and hero-worshipped
before the war and who is in love with Raleigh’s sister.
Stanhope has sought relief from the horrors of his command in
whiskey which, while not affecting his performance as a soldier,
clouds his judgement in his relationships with his junior officers.
The mainstay of the unit, and in one sense the play, is Osborne,
an ex-schoolmaster, known affectionately as Uncle, whose calm
common sense keeps Stanhope and his other officers on an even
Malcolm Sinclair plays him to perfection mixing humour , commonsense
and authority into a believable whole, overriding the petty squabbles
of the others with the authority he had acquired in the classroom.
A performance that is so natural that one forgets he is an actor
playing a part.
The other two officers, Trotter, who has risen from the ranks,
and Hibbert, who is feigning illness to get his release, are equally
well played by Ian Burfield and Rufus White, respectively, and
they, too, made their characters convincing despite the stereotypical
aspects of their parts.
The main dramatic impetus comes from Stanhope and Raleigh.
Stanhope is apparently the West End debut of Brendan Patricks,
although you would never know it from the assurance he brings
to the part.
My only criticism is that his early scenes with Raleigh and Osborne
are keyed at too high a pitch which diminishes the effect of his
near breakdown later in the play.
Apart from that, it is an impressive performance and one which
would have done credit to any actor with greater experience than
Peter Sandys–Clarke is apparently another debutante in
the West End although his performance belies his avowed immaturity.
It is a well-paced portrayal of youth,
fresh from school, unaware of what he is getting himself into,
and only gradually becoming aware of his situation and responsibilities.
His eager acceptance of a dangerous mission becomes eroded as
the time of departure approaches and he reverts to the scared
schoolboy seeking re-assurance from his schoolmaster, Osborne.
His acting in this scene was a masterpiece of pathos and effective
In fact, this scene between the two of them, which could have
been mawkish, was in fact one the most moving moments of the evening
due to the dramatic expertise shown by the two actors. Mr Sandys-Clarke
makes his debut a memorable one.
The rest of the cast are really supernumeraries; other ranks,
captured German soldiers, etc although, again, they are well played
and convincing in what they are called upon to do.
In particular, Paul Brightwell makes an amusing character out
of the wry, laconic orderly, Mason.
When a cast is as good as this one, you tend to overlook the
enormous input the director must have had.
David Grindley’s direction is unobtrusive but it’s
impact is enormous.
From the barrage of gunfire before the curtain rises, to the
final cacophony, he does not put a foot wrong.
The characters are real, as are the situations they are in. This
is not a phoney war, but a real one, with all the sacrifices that
For two and a half hours, you are living in the trenches and
that, to me, is no mean achievement for a director.
The set of Jonathan Transom is what one would expect from the
pictures and descriptions one has read of life in the trenches.
The only minor cavil I have with it is that it did not give
feel of cramped space and claustrophobia inherent in the real
thing, which I have seen and experienced.
Nevertheless, it enhanced the action and seemed as squalid as
it should be, so perhaps it is unfair of me to niggle.
I was sorry when the curtain fell , but there is a tour in progress,
with yet another cast which I intend to catch.
Journey’s End is definitely worth a journey to
see, and one I will willingly take knowing what a pleasure awaits
me at the journey’s end.
I strongly recommend that you take that journey too.
Journey’s End by R.C. Sheriff; Director, David
Grindley; Designer, Jonathan Fensom; Lighting, Jason Taylor; Sound,
Gregory Clarke; Fight Director, Paul Benzing.
CAST: Charles Daish; Malcolm Sinclair; Paul Brightwell; Peter
Sandys-Clarke; Brendan Patricks; Ian Burfield; Rob Heanley; Rufus
Wright; John Elmes; Ralph Gassman; Paul Henzing.
Producer, Phil Cameron for Background.
Playhouse Theatre, Northumberland Avenue, London, WC2N 5DE.
Mon – Sat: 7.30 pm
Mat- Thurs & Sat . 2.30pm
Box Office: 020 7369 1785