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Journey’s End

Published Monday 25 July 2011 at 10:53 by John Thaxter

An intimate but eloquent study of men compelled to fight a pointless war while heroically doing the decent thing, David Grindley’s deeply moving revival of RC Sherriff’s Great War classic has the makings of a theatrical legend.

Graham Butler (2nd Lieutenant Raleigh), Dominic Mafham (Lieutenant Osborne) and James Norton (Captain Stanhope) in Journey's End at the Duke of York's Theatre, London.

Graham Butler (2nd Lieutenant Raleigh), Dominic Mafham (Lieutenant Osborne) and James Norton (Captain Stanhope) in Journey's End at the Duke of York's Theatre, London. Photo: Geraint Lewis

His production opened at the Comedy Theatre in January 2004, then continued playing at other West End venues in parallel with the first of three major UK tours.

On Broadway in 2007, it garnered a Tony award plus six nominations. Now (halfway through a nationwide tour of 25 cities) it returns to the West End for a summer season, with plans being laid for a 2012 international tour.

Set in a candlelit officers’ dugout on the Somme in March 1918, Sherriff’s play accepts war as something to be got through, except when a hazardous raid across no-man’s-land is timed for daylight so as not to interfere with the brigadier’s dinner.

Leading the cast is tall personable James Norton, a recent RADA graduate, playing the company commander Stanhope, still with a blush of public school arrogance but drowning his nerves and self-disgust in whisky. His most telling scenes include fraught encounters with Graham Butler’s hero-worshipping Raleigh and Tim Chipping’s sturdy Sergeant Major on the eve of battle.

Dominic Mafham gives a fine, centred performance as the mature, pipe-smoking Osborne, while lively, welcome support comes from Christian Patterson as a bluff Cockney officer.

But unique to Grindley’s concept, the evening ends with a devastating tableau as the eleven-strong cast of actors stand like bronze statues, backed by a memorial roll-call of the British fallen, before doffing their steel helmets to acknowledge audience acclaim.

Production information

Duke of York's, London, July 19-September 3, then touring until November 19

Author:
RC Sherriff
Director:
David Grindley
Producers:
Lee Menzies, Flora Suk-Hw Yoon
Cast includes:
Graham Butler, Dominic Mafham, James Norton, Christian Patterson
Running time:
2hrs 45mins

Production information displayed was believed correct at time of review. Information may change over the run of the show.

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Run sheet

King's Head, Islington London
January 24-February 15
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