Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Journey's End

Whilst my friend was in town, we also went to the theatre and saw the touring production of 'Journey's End' It's set in an officers' dug-out in 1918 in the First World War. I've wanted to see it for a while, particularly as the author, R C Sherriff, wrote a play called 'The Long Sunset' which is set in the mid fifth century. 'Long Sunset' has not been produced for many a year, though was on the radio in the 1970s (but I managed to miss it, due to being in a school play!!!) My friend managed to pick up a copy of the play in a second hand bookshop just a few weeks back and has kindly given it to me.

Back to Journey's End, though. Since it had its first run in 1929 (barely 10 years after the end of the war), I'm not sure if it counts as historical fiction. The language used sounds authentic - 'topping', 'cheer-o' One of the main characters is Captain Stanhope who's only 21, but is in command and the most experienced officer there. He's turned to drink because of the pressure, but still functions very well as an officer and is loved by his men because he looks after them. The actor, Tom Wisdom (photo on the website), got just the right note of panic in his voice when he was angrily shouting at something to do with the war that he couldn't control.

Also in the cast was a certain 'Mason' who looked after all the officers' cooking. Those of us who have seen 'Blackadder Goes Forth' will have been strongly reminded of Baldric at this point. Of course, Blackadder would have been based on Mason. Some of the comic moments in Journey's End' were surely the basis of Blackadder's trench comedy: 'What sort of soup is it Mason?', 'Er ... yellow soup, sir' Even Blackadder ended tragically, with the men going over the top (very powerful as this serious scene counterpointed all the idocy and mirth that had gone before)

With 'Journey's End' we knew it would end badly (the title's a giveaway for a start!), but this production is very well done. Some of the archiac language might have been annoying or even amusing, except the cast were so very believeable and they illuminated it. Very moving, and worthwhile seeing.


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