Venue: Drama Barn
DramaSoc once again takes on a challenge with their production of R.C Sheriff’s acclaimed play, Journey’s End. It is an emotionally charged piece, set in the trenches of the First World War. Raleigh, a naive, young officer, joins a company led by his old school friend, Captain Stanhope. Raleigh acts as an unwelcome reminder of a world to which Stanhope does not wish to return or reveal himself, for fear it will reject his character, which has been mentally maimed by war.
Perhaps an obvious area to begin with a historical production such as this is would be set and costume design. Jordan Licht and Thomas Ryalls have made an astounding job of recreating a World War One dugout. The walls are a lattice of wooden planks; a simple yet very effective design. In addition, there are a few beds and a table with a lone candle in a bottle perched on top. The sparse nature of the set is not only historically accurate but also appropriately faithful to Sheriff’s script. Stephen Hutt’s lighting compliments this, particularly when it is at a low level, with the light seemingly emanating solely from the candle, as this emphasises the bleak tone. Kate Stephenson’s costumes blend into the scene perfectly as they are visually impressive and accurate.
However, all these could diminish in importance without adequate actors to imbue them with extra life. Luckily, this production has no shortage of wonderful performances. Ross Cronshaw’s portrayal of the straight-laced Osborne is carried off with all the maturity of the character’s middle age, despite his own youth. All the performances are excellent, however, special praise must be awarded to Sam Hill for his depiction of Stanhope. From his first entrance to the conclusion, it is clear he has managed to encapsulate the character. Hill has achieved a careful balance of authority coupled with frenzied anger, as well as some more tender moments. His performance seems to increase in strength and intensity, building to a crescendo.
It is not merely the emotional sections which the performers are successful with. Although humour is sparse, the few instances where it is present are well executed. In particular, Tim Kelly’s Mason, who flits in and out of scenes to serve the men has some funny exchanges, especially with Hill. Such skilful and subtle delivery of comic moments provides us with a welcome relief from a hopelessness which pervades the play.
Amid all this, the sparkling dialogue is punctuated by the sound of explosions. This serves to give the impression of an ever-present threat of facing combat, as well as submerging viewers in the world depicted on stage. Not only are sound effects skilfully deployed, so too are the silences, conveying emotions which even words fail to describe.
A gritty and emotionally intense play, brilliantly realised by all those involved. They have created a realistic and shocking parable of the effects of the horrors of conflict. Journey’s End is a prime example of DramaSoc at its very best.