Theatre Review: Journey's End - Greenwich Theatre ✭✭

Journey's End
Greenwich Theatre

Review by Claire Spence

11th February 2013: A trench lit by candlelight provides a romantic setting for R.C. Sherriff's 1928 classic Journey's End and the eery silence between the ravages of war drives the men to distraction. The surprise arrival of hero-worshiper Raleigh, fresh out of Public School into the trenches, perturbs Stanhope who, betrothed to his sister, does not want a witness to the man he has become...

Journey’s End marks the London stage debut of the rather tall and dashing David Alwyn who plays the protagonist Stanhope. Unfortunately, it shows. Perhaps it was a press night nerves, but his performance was some what stilted and lacked depth and I found that this actor’s incessant shouting began to grate me and I no longer felt impassioned by Stanhope’s plight, not to mention the risk of Alwyn losing his voice before this 9-day run is over. However, there were glimmers of hope, for example, Stanhope's touching dialogue with Hibbert, played effectively by Adam Fletcher, in Act Two. Yet, I am sure Alwyn, with experience, will command the stage in presence, not only in stature.
Raleigh played by Matthew Pattimore, is portrayed younger than his eighteen years, and although this Officer is straight out of public school his naivety and over-eagerness rings untrue. Again, Pattimore harbours fleeting moments of authenticity.

I could hear the punctuation every time James Hender came onstage as Colonel and his static performance left little to be desired and Dom Hodson was unbelievably chirpy in his role as Hardy, who has the task of opening the show, but faired better as the German Officer.

But all is not lost! Two standout performances came in the form of Liam Smith, impeccable as former School Master, Osborne, affectionately known to the troops as ‘Uncle’ with his stillness and understated and authentic performance putting me at ease; and Alex Forward, delightful as company chef Mason, who lit up the stage with his every appearance and provided much needed comic relief. Forward's onstage confidence iterates one does not have to push and indicate to get the point across.
The stage design of the trench gave the impression of the claustrophobia these men may have felt, yet better use could have been made of the mezzanine area. 

The sound design was at times disjointed with the action onstage. An audible crackling could be heard on the soundtrack and a detectable gap was heard on the looped tracks. In the final, pivotal scene the actors could not be heard over the noise of the bombing and the lighting effect also disappointed during this emotional finale.

I may seem a little harsh and I apologise to all involved in this production for this review but I was left somewhat dissatisfied with the David Hutchinson’s directorial choices. In his notes Hutchinson states he has been waiting for some years to direct Journey’s End, perhaps it was nostalgia for when he first came into contact with play whilst at drama school but this evening's production felt like that, a drama school performance. With a short run I'm unsure how much time the actors have left to develop the characters which appear to lack depth.

The Greenwich Theatre is a wonderful venue in South-East London with a great stage and acoustics and I look forward to seeing more productions in the future.

I'll end with a mention of the touching tribute for the untimely passing of Ellis Powell earlier this year. Both Matt Tring and Ant White (soldiers) dedicate their performance to her.

 2 Stars ✭✭

Listing Information

GREENWICH THEATRE Sat 9th Feb - Sun 17th Feb 
Mon - Sat Eves @ 7:30pm | Wed Mat @ 1pm | Sat Mat (no 9th) @ 2:30pm | Sun Mats @ 4pm

£17.50 & £15.00 | Concessions £12.50 | Matinees £12.50 (all tickets) 

020 8858 7755