Saturday, 16 February 2013

Journey's End - review

Written by: Tom Woods (@Thomas_E_Woods)

Where did Woods watch it?
Greenwich Theatre, London
Was Woods won over? 

Sell A Door Theatre Company’s most recent production of Journey’s End is a testament to the relevance of classic plays. Over 80 years after it was first performed; it still manages to find a comfortable place with a modern audience, and amongst the abundance of new writing that is currently prevalent in British Theatre.

Although new writing brings great rewards, it is a pleasure to be able to watch a play that has stood the test of time, in a marvellous revival by a relatively young company (Sell A Door celebrates its 6th birthday this year). All elements of this production contribute to a wonderful atmosphere, and draw one into the world of officers living in a dugout during the First World War.

Disbelief can well and truly be suspended, due to a number of factors. Chief amongst these is the cast, who all provide top quality performances. As Stanhope, David Alwyn perfectly captures the nuances of a commanding officer stretched to breaking point, straining to keep himself composed in front of his men. Of particular note is the emotionally devastating scene between Stanhope and Adam Fletcher’s Hibbert, which both actors handle masterfully. Matthew Pattimore plays Raleigh, and whilst arguments may be made that his act of fresh-faced and overeager schoolboy is somewhat overdone, his return from the raid in the second act shows a very different, haunted and scarred young officer. Pattimore handles the change effortlessly, remaining engaging and believable throughout.

Considering these convincing performances, it may seem paradoxical that the actors are neither speaking nor on stage during the best parts of the play. Sound Designer Anjali Kale and Lighting Designer Alexander Ridges deserve full credit for their excellent work. The play’s two biggest moments, including the final scene, are exclusively composed of light, a haunting musical score, and a few pyrotechnics thrown in for good measure. In a much similar way, some rather splendid tableaux of the officer on watch, silhouetted against the backdrop, denote the changes from day to dusk, thus marking the passage of time to the sound of more fantastic music. With nothing else happening on stage, the few minutes of sound and light show prove captivating without running on too long.

A few hiccups occurred in the actors’ lines, possibly due to first night nerves, but no doubt this will be ironed out. All in all, Sell A Door’s production of Journey’s End provides a wonderful, thought provoking evening that explores all the themes of R. C. Sherriff’s magnum opus in all the right ways.  

This production runs until 17th February 2013.
@GreenwichTheatr @sell_a_door

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