Captain Stanhope, played by Brendan Patricks, is in my opinion one of the most interesting characters in the play. Stanhope is a young 21 year old Captain with a lot of responsibility. We learn that he has been in the war for three years and is highly respected by the men; "Because he's stuck it till his nerves have got battered to bits, he's called a drunkard" This quote shows how much Osborne cares about Stanhope and also how much he respects him. All of the characters seem to have a deep respect for Stanhope, as I think do the audience. This is especially felt when one soldier tries to get sick leave to go home, and Patricks responds, 'Another little worm trying to wriggle home', showing how he is disgusted that anyone would give up on the cause. 'I'm fiddling with my revolver...going off by accident' also stays in my mind to show the sense of duty soldiers had as Stanhope threatens to shoot Hibbert if he deserts them. His patriotism is well portrayed to the audience, who feel that Stanhope is involved in the cause, increasing our respect for him. However, at times this respect is dampened by his incessant drinking. Stanhope is an alcoholic and is always seen clutching a glass in one hand and a cigarette in the other. These could easily deter and audience from this character, however, Stanhope has an understanding of his problem, and when we learn why he drinks, the audience relate more to him and become involved with the character.
In fact, he seems to be involved in a viscous cycle, heightened and brought to light when Raleigh arrives. Stanhope says "without being doped with whisky - I'd go mad with fright" showing he knows he has a drinking problem. He drinks to conquer his fear of going out onto the front line and being killed. It is because he drinks that he is afraid to go home and see Raleigh's sister because he will 'reek of whisky', and as he will not go home, he stays on the front line and drinks his fears away. The audience feel a lot of sympathy for Stanhope at this point, especially as we have all heard of the terribly frightening conditions of war. This is another recurring theme in the play of the traditional British stiff upper lip. The soldiers were supposed to put on a brave face and 'get on with it' rather than show their true emotions.
A strong character on the outside suddenly has an extremely vulnerable side, which reminds us of how young he actually is. Brendan Patricks really portrayed this hidden depth to his character well with a variety of stern expressions bringing out his natural leadership qualities. His face was constantly set in a rigid way, barely ever smiling. In his movement, Patricks was very rigid, tense and had very sharp and aggressive movements. His erratic movement about stage and gestures reflected Stanhope's 'tough man' exterior well.
Patricks was tall, dark, slim, angular and pale which made him look extremely drawn and weary. This reflected the time spent on the front line well as when Raleigh enters we see a young, exuberant and excited face with plenty of colour. The character as a whole was softly spoken except from when giving orders or when riled. He was well spoken, reflecting the British culture and this made him easy to relate to. All of these attributes helped to convey Stanhope to the audience.
Costume changes and set design were extremely important to establish a relationship with the audience as they helped to provide a picture of what it was like, hence meaning that the actors were more believable. The whole stage was dark, gloomy and quite eerie, in khaki colours of deep browns and beiges. This gave the performance the frightening and to an extent, unnatural impression of the war that the audience needed to feel. This added to the fear of war that Patricks was portraying and was essential the audience sensed. The stage size and structure added to the emotions as shown below:
The stage helped immensely to aid Patricks' portrayal of Stanhope's feelings and aided the ominous aroma surrounding him at first, which increased the audiences respect for him. As I mentioned, we become a lot more attached to Patricks' portrayal of this character as we learn more about the details of his personality. He is a key example to illustrate the hardships of war and how it can 'change a man'. His continuous drinking, stern expressions and aggressive movements represent him as repulsive man, however, as an audience, our relationship with him changes greatly at Raleigh's death.
Here Patricks beautifully plays a man loosing his best friend and the compassionate and vulnerable side we rarely see to his character. Patricks' deliberation in playing Stanhope this way, so we feel much more sympathy for the characters as a whole, was very well done through the simple use of hand holding. There was much silence at this point as we heard the bombs roaring in the background, and hardly any dialect was spoken. What was spoken was kind, reassuring words of "steady, old boy. Just lie there quietly for a bit" from Patricks, in what is a new tone and pitch of voice for Stanhope. The pauses were perfectly timed, and meant that the audience could focus on the acting in front of them, and not what was going on elsewhere. All eyes were intently on these two in a touching moment of empathy. Patricks made sure that his eyes never left Raleigh and sat absorbedly on the edge of his chair, as if willing Raleigh to survive. This scene was very well played and effectively exposed the tender nature of a friendship but in a horrible situation.
There are other times when his compassion shows, for example after Osborne, played by Malcolm Sinclair, dies, he demands if Raleigh 'has to sit on Osborne's bed', putting emphasis on the 'have to'. 'How awfully nice - if the brigadier's pleased' was also said sarcastically after Osborne's death, showing Stanhope has little respect for those above him and resents the death of a dear friend a father figure to help the administration. This again illustrates the hardships of war when it affects you personally.
Osborne is a lot older than the other soldiers, and acts more as a father figure to the men; even Stanhope. He is referred to warmly as 'uncle', which illustrates how kind and dependable he is seen to be. Instantly the audience warms to this character, and feels immensely when he dies. Physically, Sinclair provides a broader frame than other characters, yet also an air of responsibility. Although he is second in command to Stanhope, he is often consulted on issues related to the men and even Stanhope himself is aware of the necessity of Osborne. Stanhope relies very highly on Osborne to put him to bed when he has drunk too much, 'dear old Uncle, tuck me up', and as an honest opinion, when he asks 'you don't think I'm going potty?', again showing how people trust Osborne.
However, what is important about Osborne's character is that he genuinely is terrified by the war. He constantly talks about other things such as 'gardening' and 'rugger', especially in the scene before the 'raid' with Raleigh. Sinclair portrays this reluctance and terror well during the scene in which Osborne breaks down. When there is no-one else on stage, we truly learn how scared he is as he sobs uncontrollably, shoulders shaking quite violently. This reflects the stiff British upper-lip attitude, as he only shows his true feeling about the raid when no-one is watching. It seems as though he knows the other men look up to him as an example of courage and composure, showing how much of a responsibility he has. Sinclair shows this by a strained smile at times, but in general through a lot of standard rubbing of the forehead and to show he misses home, playing/twisting his wedding ring.
Sinclair portrays well the burden of experience during times of war and the great team ethos of Osborne. He even dies waiting for another soldier, when he could easily have been selfish and left him. This, for me, was the most memorable part of Osborne's role, as it summed him up extremely well. His death had a great impact on all in the trench, and gave way to some disbelieving and incomprehensive looks from Patricks.
Compared to other characters, Sinclair did not have much in that of an orthodox gesture for his character, however he did always seem to be tired and seated at the table, often in a hunched stance. Also, when listening to others, he would incline his head on the side and from time to time be puffing on a real pipe. Often he talked very softly and at pace slower than others, regularly smiling. He seemed to be conscious of what he was saying, and if it was appropriate. Sinclair had a very formal accent, in order to portray the background of Osborne - ex school master.
Although each actor personalised their costume, Osborne's was quite standard, and always very smart. Unlike others, he was constantly standing straight and looked proud of his uniform. His make up made him seem older than others and reflected the character well.
Overall, the actors used varying skills in order to establish a relationship with the audience, and portray their characters effectively. Sinclair portrayed the front which Osborne puts on well during the break down scene, and Patricks illustrated the vulnerable side rarely seen to Stanhope's character well, in both instances evoking empathy from the audience.