Journeys End by R.C. Sherriff
Journeys End is considered a classic of First World War literature now, but at the time, it was rejected by almost every producer in the West End (‘How can I put on a play with no leading lady?’ one manager complained, providing Sherriff with the title to his future autobiography). It finally secured a pitiful two-night run at the Apollo in December of 1928, where it had the great good fortune to feature an unknown twenty-one-year-old actor in the lead role – one Laurence Olivier. It, and he, never looked back.
Its a beautiful part for an actor, in a play thats wonderfully lean and controlled – a claustrophobic, tense study of combat trauma in three efficient acts. There is only one set – the inside of a British dugout – and we are not allowed out of it for the duration of the play, watching the interactions between Captain Stanhope and his four officers as a major German attack approaches.
All of them deal with the tension in their own ways – Stanhope self-medicates with whisky; Osborne, his second in command, is calm and stoical; Hibbert attempts to feign a debilitating ‘neuralgia’; and Trotter concentrates on enjoying his food to the fullest.
The newest arrival, Raleigh, knew Stanhope at school (where he was ‘skipper of rugger at Barford, and kept wicket for the eleven’); he has pulled strings to be in his boyhood heros company, and through him we see the changes that a year on the Western Front has wrought on Stanhope.
In its setting, and in the dynamic of its characters, you can see this play standing squarely behind almost every televisual and film representation of the trenches ever since. (It is practically a blueprint for Blackadder Goes Forth, with company cook Mason doing duty as comic relief.) It is also very moving – perhaps most of all because its characters are not against the war at all. They believe that what theyre doing is important; we, watching from a distance, are almost overwhelmed by the meaningfulness that can be created from futility.
Journey's End by R.C. Sherriff
What does that mean? All the characters are naked. It allows us to understand the situation and become familiar with the characters. A crucial plot twist is exposed. How does this structure affect the audience?
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Journey's End Quotes
Journey's End is a dramatic play, the seventh of English playwright R. It was first performed at the Apollo Theatre in London by the Incorporated Stage Society on 9 December , starring a young Laurence Olivier , and soon moved to other West End theatres for a two-year run.
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As well as dialogue and sound effects, Sherriff also uses the lack of these for impact. Sherriff gives many hints throughout the play as to what is to come. Before the play even begins, the title itself foreshadows that these men may be coming to the end of something. Also, when Osborne takes off his wedding ring before he goes on the raid this hints that he may not be going to return. All of these things increase tension and introduce the theme of danger and death early in the play. Sherriff juxtaposes scenes of eating and chatting with scenes of discussions about battle and violence. This has the effect of reminding us that these are human beings.
These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community. He got lumbago the first night and went home. Now he's got a job lecturing young officers on 'Life in the Front Line'. Speaking with Osborne, Hardy mocks all the various and common schemes that officers employ to leave the war and some of them even later claim to be "experts" in combat and war. This first dialogue foreshadows what will later be seen in the play with one officer in C Company in particular.