Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

A journey of majesty and stature

Captain Stanhope (Josh Crow, left) means business as he confronts Lt Hibbert (Chris Broadfield) in a tense moment after cowardice has come to the fore. 

Journey's End

Swan Theatre Amateur Company

Swan Theatre, Worcester


IT took me a little while to take Simon Atkins's splendid production on its own terms. Having previously seen R C Sherriff's searing account of life in the First World War trenches presented in a studio, I was aware that the larger auditorium made me feel I was missing the claustrophobic atmosphere that went with the smoke and the gunfire. 

My reservations did not last for long. This is a production of majesty and stature. It draws its audience into the tensions, the fears, the bravery and the humour that are quite superbly presented as the constituents of conflict in 1918. The sound and lighting effects reach an almost awesome level. Indeed, at one point, we are left for several minutes, looking at the deserted dugout while the explosions and flashlights of war are given a field day. 

Central to this microcosm of bloody conflict is Captain Stanhope. He is the man in charge of  this corner of lethal mayhem; seemingly fearless but in fact as human and as crisis-ridden as anybody; constantly going without sleep; looked upon as a sort of freak by his fellows and showing unwavering support for the whisky bottle. This is a tremendous performance by Josh Crow, who at one point is frighteningly irrascible but who comes movingly to kindness beside the deathbed of a friend and comrade. 

His mood-swings have the perfect counterpoint in Keith Thompson, as Lt “Uncle” Osborne – a comfortable, brave, pipe-smoking man of seemingly unflappable equanimity whose anxiety nevertheless shows through in his conversation with Lt Raleigh – an excellent portrayal by Andrew Talbot – before the pair of them are due to make a 60-yard dash towards enemy lines in the hope of capturing a German soldier for interrogation.


This is a warm, very human account of a hero who is free of histrionics – and that exchange before their suicidal run, which finds them talking about anything except their immediate future or lack of it, provides another memorable few minutes. 

Chris Broadfield is excellent as the panic-gripped officer who is made to confront his demons  when Stanhope promises to shoot him – a complete contrast to Alan Wollaston's utterly equable Lt Trotter, who looks life in the eye and declines to be disconcerted. Mark Danckert is the textbook Sergeant Major and John Horton the splendidly upper-class Colonel. 

No, it's not a barrel of laughs, though Ian Mason conjures some lighter moments as the dugout's cook, always marching off at an eye-watering speed that indicates that he belongs to the light infantry. 

There is lots of smoke. There's an atmosphere that envelops the observer. On the first night, the stylistic build-up to the curtain-call was riveting – so much so, that there was a sort of stunned silence before the eventual line-up of a talented company began to receive the acclaim it so richly deserved. 

Heart-stopping  stuff, utterly fitting in Remembrance Week. To 13-11-10

John Slim




Home Reviews A-Z Reviews by affiliate