Review: Journey’s End by RC Sherriff, Theatre Royal Brighton, April 5

SOMETIMES YOU can be fooled into thinking there’s not much scope for the future of live theatre. We live in a multimedia world, do we not?

Thursday, 7th April 2011, 11:28 am

Then a play like this comes along, about life on the front line during the First World War, and it somehow gets inside you - wrenching your sense of security. And you are left feeling that you have experienced something significant, well beyond the norm.

“It’s all so beastly,” said one of the characters during the performance.

The war was famously ‘beastly’ but also poignantly fascinating, affecting every family across the nation. Journey’s End was first performed in 1929 after R.C. Sherriff penned the drama based on his own wartime experiences, albeit focused on officer rankings. So director David Grindley had to follow a daunting legacy. But he succeeded in evoking this intimate account of men desperate for normality in unnatural circumstances.

Tension flowed throughout the onstage narrative, at times masterfully set in motion via an enticing blend of angry outbursts and meaningful silences with the all-male cast skillfully mastering the demands of their characters, portraying vivid and personalities. Graham Butler was a perfect choice as the naive hero-worshipper Raleigh, and Simon Harrison brilliantly agitated as Hibbert. Christian Patterson (Trotter) and Tony Turner (Mason) also brought much-needed laughter with their banter about bacon.

Recent RADA graduate James Norton was powerful as the tormented Captain Stanhope and Dominic Mafham, my personal favourite, warmed hearts as the sacrificial lamb, Lieutenant ‘Uncle’ Osbourne.

Sets, lighting and sounds were both dramatic and sombre – and the memorial wall shown in the very last scene, with all the characters standing still, was incredibly well done.

Journey’s End has been on the international stage countless times in the past 80 years but this latest production definitely ranks as a must-see.

It runs at Brighton until April 9.

By Chris Eyte