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Review: A Journey's End

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Introduction

Varun Aswani The London Stage 24th November 2004 Review: A Journey's End A Journey's End is a play set in the days before one of the most intensive German offensives of the First World War, which took place on March 21, 1918, at St Quentin in France, as a group of officers contemplate the impending conflict, and what has gone before. The play focuses upon the lives of five company officers in a dug out as they wait for a major German offensive, an offensive they have been expecting for weeks, but which they now believe to be imminent. The director captures the terrible suspense of waiting, never knowing what will happen and learning to live with the ubiquitous presence of death. Several elements make up a good theatrical performance; these are sets, lighting, props, sounds and characters. Before we dive into the various elements, let us gain an understanding of the performance. As the hours tick-by, we observe the pressures experienced by the men as the cold, dirt, poor food, alternating silence and bombardment continue to do their work. The play not so much delivers a political or historical message as simply portrays the effects of war on men. ...read more.

Middle

Uncle is extremely fond of Stanhope; he constantly defends Stanhope when other officers comment about his drinking habits and his age. When Stanhope loses his temper, it is Osborne people turn to for reason, and when advice, or companionship, is needed, it is generally Osborne who provides it. He is also seen as a father to Stanhope when he takes him to bed after getting drunk. Uncle advises and offers emotional support to both Raleigh and Stanhope in many instances. Upon Raleigh's arrival into the unit, Stanhope was worried that his drunken image would upset Raleigh. He imagined that Raleigh would tell his family about Stanhope's new appearance and they would be appalled by the truth. Uncle creates peace in Stanhope's head by acting as a verbal link between Raleigh and Stanhope. Lieutenant Osborne acts as the head and the mediator of this unit, his presence in A Journey's End was very effective. Captain Stanhope is a commanding officer teetering on the edge, presents a facade of control by barking brusque orders at his troops. He drowns his fears in whisky, but his constant mood swings show how close he is to breaking point. ...read more.

Conclusion

If a captain becomes an alcoholic, everyone involved with war must have experienced the madness of the situation. Lieutenant Osborne reads Alice in Wonderland during breaks. He sees the story depicted in the book as being more real that the scenario he faced in the trenches. The story does not play favor to British or Germans. The scenes speak for themselves, such is their power, yet even the Germans are shown to have a human side. This is a battlefield in which the distinction between good and bad is lost and only confusion remains. And it is best illustrated during a monologue in which the captain recalls a moment when a German captain ceased fire to allow the British to carry a critical soldier to safety - before both sides proceeded to blow the hell out of each other on the following day. Plays like A Journey's End, which deal with dark and difficult issues, cannot easily be described as 'entertaining' but this did not preclude laughter from an excellent production that skillfully combined a sense of the tension, aggression, deep melancholy and anguish experienced by those who went to war. After my final assessments, I believe the meaning of this play is first and foremost about loss, about sacrifice (both old and young), and about the futility of war. ...read more.

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