Warfare in News


Posted on Thursday 5th October


• First World War play JOURNEY'S END will be performed live in the Belgian Battlefields for the first time this Autumn to mark 100 years since the 3rd Battle of Ieper (Passchendaele). 

• English playwright RC Sherriff was wounded at Passchendaele in 2017.
The play is based on his experiences there.

• He wrote it ten years later saying, "I did not need to create these characters: they just walked out fully-formed on to the page." 

• It tells the story of a few soldiers in a dugout over three days anticipating the horrific Battle of St Quentin (Operation Michael) of March 1918.

• In Flanders Field Museum in Ieper host the live production in Het Krutimagazijn near the Train Station.

• Designer Tim Peacock is creating a realistic bunker theatre: audience walk through trenches, featuring live ‘soldiers’, to reach their seats.

• Het Kruitmagazijn is 200 years old with 3-metre thick walls: one of very few remaining old buildings in Ieper which was destroyed in 2 world wars.
The play shows from October 10 to November 12, to cover Remembrance Day.

• It first showed in December 1928 at the Apollo Theatre in London with an unknown Laurence Olivier as main character Captain Stanhope, a 21-year-old alcoholic ‘anti-hero’.

• It’s critical view of trench warfare was unpopular with military authorities but it became 'viral' across the world in the 1930s, including Germany where a film was banned by the Nazis. 
Although British it is not nationalistic. In fact it is the opposite.

• A London critic said in 1928, “This play vibrates with the lives of millions of men whatever their nationality may be. They are all soldiers in a few soldiers.”

• The play is considered an authentic study in trauma in the trenches.

• This is the debut production for MESH Theatre Company, founded by Sally Woodcock in 2016 to produce war dramas in historic war locations.
The company’s tag line is “Where History Speaks”.

Cast Includes:
TOM KAY: Stanhope (BBC Doctors; A Woman Killed With Kindness, NT; American Psycho, Almeida)

RORY FAIRBAIRN: Raleigh (Journey’s End, UK Tour; Earthquakes in London, Broadway Theatre; Winter’s Tale, RCS / Shakespeare’s Globe).

STEVE EDWIN: Osborne (Hiawatha, NT; Blood Brothers, West End; River, BBC)
ALEXANDER TOL: Hibbert (Victoria, ITV; Journey’s End, UK Tour; De 12 Van Oldenheim, Endemol)

JOHN RAYMENT: Trotter (Journey’s End, UK Tour; Immersive Theatre in Advertising, Les Enfants Terribles; Bedtime Story, Theatre Royal Stratford East)

ALEX PHELPS: Mason (Hamlet, Open Air Tour; Mother Courage and Her Children, Library Manchester)

DAN DAWES: Hardy (Journey’s End UK Tour, Rapunzel, UK Tour; Romeo and Juliet, UK Tour)

PETER WATTS: Colonel (As You Like It, York Theatre Royal; Alice in Wonderland, UK Tour; Journey’s End, UK Tour)

TERRY BURNS: Sergeant Major (See How They Run, York Theatre Royal; The Bill, Thames TV; Family Affairs, Channel 5)

GREG SNOWDEN: German Soldier (Common, NT; Emmerdale, ITV; One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The Theatre Collection)


Journey's End is set in the trenches towards the end of the war, it gives shocking and revealing insights into the experiences of ten men in a British trench over four days in March 1918, in the run-up to Operation Michael at St Quentin, near Aisne.

It was first performed in London in 1928, starring Laurence Olivier for more than 600 performances over two years. By late 1929 it had played in 18 languages across 31 countries, with English-speaking casts in Canada, Australia and South Africa and foreign language productions in New York, Paris, Stockholm, Berlin, Rome, Vienna, Madrid, and Budapest.

A 1930 film  was followed by many adaptations as it influenced other artists across Europe. In 1933 a German film version Die Andere Seite directed by Heinz Paul was banned weeks after the Nazis took power in 1933.

It was at first dismissed by many as sensational with its message that the war had been a colossal waste of young lives built on deception. Army authorities complained it affected peacetime recruiting figures and it was widely criticised for its glorification of the officer class, with its charismatic lead character the alcoholic Stanhope, and comedic working class characters, such as the clownish, food-obsessed Trotter.

But each revival has shown that it transcends era and class with ever new things to tell an audience.

Further Reading

From Journey’s End to The Dam Busters

Only £25.00

From Journey’s End to The Dam Busters

(Hardback - 288 pages)
by Roland Wales

Kingston playwright R.C. Sherriff came to fame with his First World War drama Journey’s End, which was based on his own experiences as a young officer on the Western Front. Its success made him a household name and opened the door to a highly lucrative career as a novelist, playwright and screenwriter in Hollywood and in Britain.

Many of his movies – The Invisible Man, Goodbye Mr Chips, The Four Feathers, Odd… Read more...

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