Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Journey's End

I'm still a bit numb after Journey's End.

Because it was written so soon after WWI, in 1929, the play has a feeling of authenticity that gives it depth beyond other war stories I've encountered. This timing also gives it an interesting lack of perspective for the tumultuous period in history that was to follow. The result is a very raw play, with a view of war more like Jarhead than Saving Private Ryan: lots of sitting around and waiting for something to happen, then ten minutes of action. But don't get me wrong, this play is far from boring. It's too well written for that.

Early on, you learn that the company will be manning the trenches on the front line for the next week, a stake in time that gives the whole play a foreboding sense of countdown.

The acting is impeccable. Particular credit has to be given to James Norton's portrayal of Captain Stanhope, a character who has been on the front line since the start of the war. Despite being younger than me, he's worked his way up to the level of Captain, and along the way developed a coping mechanism based on alcohol and aggression. He fills the sizeable shoes of Sir Laurence Olivier, who originated the role. Also very noteworthy is 'fresh meat' 2nd Lieutenant Raleigh, who joins the company at the beginning of the play, and is brought to life with wide-eyed innocence by Graham Butler.

The final five minutes, including the bows, manages to be powerful without succumbing to melodrama. It's some of the most moving theatre I've ever seen. Paul and I didn't speak until we were almost at the tube.


  1. When theatre makes you speechless = best feeling the in the world!