Journey’s End

February 7, 2015 | By | 1 Reply More

✭✭✭✩✩    Travelling light

Bedlam Theatre: Tue 3 – Sat 7 Feb 2015

Cruel and deceptively simple, R.C. Sherriff’s play set in the trenches of WW1 remains one of the great descriptions of what happens to humanity when it goes to war.

And if you want to get a sense of the simple fist-in-the-gut effectiveness of the play, then the Edinburgh University Theatre Company’s straightforward production of it at the Bedlam is a must.

Ross Bailie and Lewis Robertson. Photo: Louise Spence

Ross Bailie and Lewis Robertson. Photo: Louise Spence

Journey’s End is set in the officers’ quarters of the company commanded by battle-weary Stanhope, who has been at the front for three years. A major German attack is expected in a few days time but, for the moment, all is quiet.

In many ways, it is a perfect play for the EUTC. The characters in it, young officers in the British army fresh out of public school to the trenches in France, are of the company’s age.

Indeed, Tom Trower is excellent as 18 year-old Raleigh who has pulled a few strings so he can be in Stanhope’s company – three years ahead of him at school he is a friend of the family. Trower has the fresh-faced sincerity exactly right, and the naive failure to appreciate how his hero might have changed.

Ben Schofield gives a clever edge to Schofield as he hits the bottle – the only way he can cope. He is a believable commander, but less successful when called on to lose his temper. Indeed, it is in this area, of convincing portrayal of men on an emotional knife-edge, that the whole production could improve the most.

horrific normality

There is, however, a superb performance at the heart of the play from Ross Baillie as the taciturn second-in-command: Osbourne – older than the rest and affectionately referred to as “Uncle”.

Tom Trower, Jari Fowkes, Lewis Robertson and Alex Andrassy. Photo: Louise Spence

Tom Trower, Jari Fowkes, Lewis Robertson and Alex Andrassy. Photo: Louise Spence

Bailie provides a sense of grounding to the production. Osbourne is the bedrock around which the young men can begin to cope with the horrific normality into which their lives have fallen. And he provides, for an audience a century removed from the event, a path back to the reality of the situation.

The director, Lorna Rose Treen, has got it very right with regards the pace of the piece and the way she allows the play to turn on its audience and make them part of itself. Her uncredited designer has also done a superb job, particularly in the play’s final seconds.

Yet there are more layers to the script than a simple antiwar polemic, layers which are not found here. The problem lies in several of the performances, which don’t just fail to capture the underlying fragility of their characters, but positively detract from the play as a whole by making it seem as if they are playing for laughs.

A production which captures much of Sherriff’s script, but which too often confuses the irony and sarcasm of those laughing in the face of death, for knockabout comedy.

Running time 2 hours 40 minutes (with one interval)
Bedlam Theatre, 11b Bristo Place, EH1 1EZ
Tuesday 3 – Saturday 7 February 2015
Daily at 7.30pm
Tickets and details: https://www.bedlamtheatre.co.uk/shows/journeys-end

ENDS

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