first night

Journey's End

Hetty Hodgson is left feeling emotional after DUCT's 'Journey's End'.

With the 11th November fast approaching and this year being the centenary of The Battle of the Somme, this was an extremely poignant time to stage R.C. Sherriff’s Journey’s End. And DUCT have done this heartbreaking classic absolute justice. The close space provided by City Theatre perfectly allowed for the creation of an intimate officer’s dugout, which fully absorbed the audience into what was an intense and touching performance created by a talented cast.

Kudos must certainly be given to director George Breare, whose wonderful vision can be appreciated from the show’s opening moments. Breare’s decision to have a cast member light the candles onstage immediately brought the audience into the thick of the action. But the genius of this decision only really came into fruition at the play’s ending. Despite a few wandering eyes, six cast members were stood bearing candles before they were blown out in sync. This moving end to the performance showed that, ultimately, there was only a dark fate in store for these brave men. This is just one example of Breare’s fantastic directorial overview.

This is not to say that the play did not have its flaws. Scene changes were often clumsy and done in a way which presumed that the audience could not see what was happening, even though we clearly could. Also, whispers from cast members could sometimes be heard offstage, which unfortunately distracted from the intense action of the play.

Despite these gripes, the flair of the talented ensemble of actors—whose ability to make the audience laugh one second and cry the next—was second to none. The standout performances of the play must be accredited to George Ellis (Stanhope) and Harry Scholes (Raleigh), whose shared character and relationship development took the audience on an extremely moving journey. Scholes’s youthful depiction of an eager, excitable and earnest Raleigh was extremely warming, and made his eventual fate all the more heartbreaking. While Ellis’s impressive ability to convey emotions of warmth, emptiness and anger showcased his versatility as an actor. Mention too must also go to Joe Stanton, whose desperate portrayal of Hibbert was extremely powerful and had much of the audience in tears. Boldly choosing to step into an acting role as well as direct, I additionally enjoyed Breare’s depiction of a hilariously blunt Trotter. Despite these particularly glowing performances, it was the contrasting and well-developed characterisation of each and every character that really made this performance.

Overall, Journey’s End is well worth a watch if you can pop down to City Theatre over the next couple of days. Not only is it moving and powerful, but it really makes the audience question what war means for those fighting it. With 20% of profits donated to The Royal British Legion, this dynamic and heart-rending production is hugely important. 

4 November 2016

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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