Review by Emma Whitelaw
IT ISN'T often that I find myself moved to the point of tears,
especially at the theatre. But I was certainly not on my own;
there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as the Last Post played
and the curtains came down on Journey’s End
in it’s new home at The Playhouse Theatre.
To describe this production as absolutely amazing would be an
understatement! It is possibly the best thing I’ve seen
The cast are brilliant; the set fantastic, the sound unbelievable
and the lighting and costumes are very much on par. In fact, I
find it impossible to find fault! Every element of the entire
show was utterly flawless.
Having been written over 70 years ago, Journey’s End
is as relevant to today’s audiences as it was in its premiere
The story highlights the harsh realities and the futility of
war. The characters are so very real. It is as though their every
emotion, the fear, the excitement, the sorrow is your own. The
camaraderie extends beyond the stage; by the end it feels as though
you are old mates.
The story takes place in 1918, in the three days leading up to
Operation Michael, one of the most brutal battles of the First
World War. Inside a dark and dingy dugout, we are introduced to
the men of the 9th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment.
Led by Captain Stanhope, played by David Sturzaker, the men are
a mixed bunch. They come from all walks of life, yet they have
one common bond, to serve their country and the hope to one day
make it home.
Second in command, Lieutenant Osbourne,
is referred to by most of the men as 'Uncle'. Played brilliantly
by Philip Franks, he is an amicable fellow, level-headed, kind-hearted
and most of all, wise.
A former School Master, he is like a father-figure to the men.
He offers sensible advice and protects the younger men from the
harsh realities of the grim fate that lies ahead.
The incredibly talented Toby Kebbell plays 2nd Lieutenant Raleigh.
It is his first time in the fields and Raleigh is assigned to
Stanhope’s Battalion. As a former schoolmate and family
friend of Stanhope, he is extremely excited to be there.
However, the feeling is most certainly not mutual for Stanhope.
He fears Raleigh’s admiration will soon turn to disgust
when he realises the man he has become. The war has changed him
and Stanhope believes he is no longer the 'hero' Raleigh once
The play is extremely well written. R.C. Sherriff allows us,
as an audience, to view the human side of the Great War under
He has penned it in such a way that it transcends what we know
of history. He takes us beyond the frontline and into the hearts
and souls of the brave men.
He is completely unbiased; the Germans are depicted equally as
well as the British. On both sides of the battlefield, we find
men bravely doing their duty for their own country. Bravery is
not merely an option, but a means of survival.
Journey’s End is both powerful and poignant. It
highlights how hopelessly wasteful those battles were. In it,
we find a subtle reminder of the futility of war and the hope
that we can one day learn from past mistakes.
Theatre this brilliant needs no further comment – except
that you simply must see it!
Journey’s End by R.C. Sherriff. Directed by David
Grindley. Starring Guy Williams, Philip Franks, Pearce Quigley,
Toby Kebbell, David Sturzaker, Paul Bradley, Alex Grimwood, Ifan
Meredith, Bob Barrett, Max Berendt, John R Mahoney, Alex Grimwood.
Playhouse Theatre Northumberland Ave WC2. Box Office 0870 060
6622 or www.ticketmaster.co.uk