Review: Journey's End -Theatre Royal, Glasgow

By the end of 21st March 1918, the first day of the last German offensive of World War One, Operation Michael, the British losses stood at 20,000 dead and 35,000 wounded.

Set in the British trenches at St Quentin in 1918 during the build up to Operational Michael, Journey's End juxtaposes the frightening reality faced by young soldiers when they arrived on the frontline with the day to day camaraderie and everyday conversations of an officer’s life in a dug-out.

Direct from a successful summer at the Duke of York's theatre in the West End, David Grindley's production of this powerful piece by RC Sherriff is haunting. Set entirely in a dimly lit dug-out the small space offers a window to the lives of five officers and their immediate staff.

2nd Lieutenent Raleigh, Graham Butler, is the quintessential green soldier fresh from public school a part Butler plays brilliantly. The enthusiasm he gives the character for the war effectively highlights the innocence that so many of the young officers had on arrival at the frontline. Captain Stanhope, Nick Hendrix, contrasts this fresh enthusiasm with the exhaustion of a man who has seen too much and is barely keeping his head above water. His short tempered outbursts and whisky addiction clearly the mark of man who is not coping with the reality of war. Hendrix flips seemingly effortlessly from quiet and considered to a snarling terrier as soon as whisky is added to the equation bringing a Jekyll & Hyde element to the piece.

Simon Dutton is masterful as Lieutenant ‘Uncle’ Osborne bringing a much needed father figure and sage advice to offset the unpredictable Stanhope. The noble way he approaches the preparations for the raid is heart-breaking as there is a manner of inevitability about his fate. The light relief is provided by the superb Christian Patterson as the larger than life 2nd Lieutenant Trotter and excellent Tony Turner as the entertaining Private Mason who cooks for the officers. The humour provided by their two characters is much needed and both Patterson and Turner have faultless comic timing.

From our seats in the dress circle we found that the stage lighting was a little too dim and some of the emotion and expression was lost in the gloom. The positioning of the interval also leaves much to be desired as it falls between scenes in Act Two of the play rather than at a natural juncture resulting in a frustrating loss of pace.

However, those comments pale into insignificance compared to an audience member’s phone ringing loudly, incessantly and repeatedly during the emotionally-charged concluding scenes. It must be soul-destroying for the cast to have the poignant moment they have worked towards shattered by the needless ring of a mobile phone.

Despite the attempts of technology, and inconsiderate audience members, to spoil the atmosphere I was in tears at the heart-rending finale. The horror that these men lived, and died, through should never be forgotten and Journey's End is a sincere reminder of the sacrifices made.

Wed 7 September – Sat 10 September
Mon - Sat eves 7.30pm
Thurs & Sat matinees 2.30pm
Running time approx 2hrs 46min
Box Office 08448 717 648 (Bkg fee) (bkg fee)
Tickets bought in person at the theatre box office do not carry a booking fee.