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Journey's End Review

The Singleton House common room has become the summer home of QEGS drama in recent years and on June 29th and 30th the venue was utterly transformed into the dugout officers’ quarters in the trenches of World War One for Mr Ben Ventress’s exceptional production of R.C. Sherriff’s ‘Journey’s End’.  There was a subdued atmosphere, lit by lamp and candlelight, as the audience took in the scene: camp beds surrounded the central temporary tables and barbed wire protected the edges.  As the play began, we were ably shown round the scene by Kyle Robinson, as Hardy, and we accompanied Jarvis Davies in his consideration of affairs.  He performed the role of the older, avuncular officer Osborne with a calm, assured manner, instantly taking the audience into his trust and allowing us to understand the faith which we learn is placed in him by Stanhope and, later, Raleigh.

Before long, we met the play’s protagonist: Captain Stanhope, subtly and thoughtfully played by Seb Roberts.  Stanhope’s strength and vulnerability in equal measure were calmly conveyed by Seb, whose talents seem to grow and grow under Mr Ventress’s thoughtful direction.

The play was particularly relevant in its performance by our young men of Year 10 and, of course, our staff, as it reinforced the tragedy of the young lives lost to war.  Particular mention, then, must go to Jamie Graham, here, for conveying the youthful exuberance of a young man keen to do his best, fresh from school and with all the ideals of hero-worship which we felt, all too inevitably, must come to an end.

Powerful, too, were the poignant moments between the young officers as their vulnerabilities became all too apparent.   Seb Roberts, as Stanhope, revealed his fears with an air of resignation as he discussed his past with Osborne.  Will Gedling, as Hibbert, touched the audience with his inability to be honest about his fears, masking them with the excuse of neuralgia and then stoically recovering his composure to move towards the play’s final scenes.

Connor Roscoe should also be mentioned here for his performance as Trotter, whose good humour and more lively approach contrasted with the weaknesses displayed by the other characters. However, his relative enthusiasm declined over the course of the play, emphasising his vulnerabilities and evoking a sympathetic reaction from the audience.

One of the hallmarks of Mr Ventress’s productions is the inclusion of staff within the cast and ‘Journey’s End’ was no exception.  Therefore, we were treated to the officious, yet thoughtful, Colonel, ably performed by Mr Moriarty-Eames, and the determined loyalty of the Sergeant Major, brought to life by Mr Cornwall, producing a particularly tragic moment as he carried the wounded body of Lieutenant Raleigh, in a pièta-like image, from the battlefield.  Last, but not least, Mr Ventress’s own performance, as the dryly servile Mason, added a comic relief to the play which somehow also added to its touching reality.  The set, constructed by Mr Bendell and Miss Bowker,  and lighting, operated by Miss Walmsley, should also be highly commended for creating, as they did, such a powerful atmosphere.

R.C. Sherriff’s 1928 play appeared just as relevant to audiences today as it did almost ninety years ago and, with our school’s strong connections to young servicemen killed in action, audiences left admiring not only the talent of our young performers but considering the sacrifices of their brave predecessors.

Review by Kate Perkins, English Department:

This year’s Trinity Term Drama production was once again staged in-the-round in Singleton House. The Common Room had been transformed into a dug-out in the Trenches during World War One for R C Sherriff’s harrowing “Journey’s End”.

The simple yet spectacularly effective set, constructed by Mr Bendell and Miss Bowker, leant an ideally claustrophobic and oppressive atmosphere to the play, much of which is spent, as the older officer Osborne (played by Jarvis Davies) remarks, “just waiting for something”.  

Alongside this suitably avuncular portrayal of Osborne, the man the other officers know as “Uncle”, were a number of very impressive QEGS stage debuts: Jamie Graham completely embodied the nervous, gently boyish but enthusiastic Raleigh, fresh from public school at the age of only eighteen and, in the second of the two performances, gave us an exceptionally moving death scene; whilst Will Gedling exuded real star power as the shell-shocked and hopelessly inept Hibbert, his confrontation with Seb Roberts’s Stanhope forming one of the most compelling and powerful scenes on both evenings; Connor Roscoe possessed just the right combination of chippiness and jollity as Trotter, the man who has risen from the lower ranks during the course of the war and Kyle Robinson opened proceedings good-humouredly as Hardy, the departing commanding officer.

Continuing with a recently established tradition of staff participation in Drama productions were Mr Cornwall, who was every inch the loyal, efficient, serious-minded Sergeant-Major and Mr Eames, who, with his superbly bluff, hale-and-hearty persona as the Colonel also provided us with some unscripted comic moments when first-night nerves kicked in.

At the centre of the whole production was QEGS stage veteran Seb Roberts, in his second major role this academic year and his largest to date, as the charismatic, but exhausted and increasingly alcoholic Stanhope.  As well as being a further demonstration of his versatility as an actor, his portrayal commanded the stage throughout both evenings, using every tool of the actor’s art, both vocal and physical, to communicate the many twists and turns in the psyche of this complex, conflicted character.

All cast members, who had been rehearsing their roles since the beginning of the Trinity Term, worked together effectively to produce two genuinely moving evenings of ensemble theatre.

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