Journey’s End

By Jane Wilson and Judith Phillips

During the WW1 Book Group meeting in July 2017, one of the reading recommendations was ‘Journey’s End’, a play written in 1928 by Robert Sherriff and based around his experiences as an officer in the First World War.  Teesdale residents may remember an excellent production by The Castle Players a few years ago.

A popular stage play which has been adapted for film and television over the decades, this fifth film adaptation was released in the UK on 2nd February to generally positive reviews. ‘Journey’s End’ documents the experiences in Spring 1918 of a group of six officers gathered in a dugout near Aisne. Over a four-day period, they and their men wait in the trenches for the signal to go over the top and face their almost certain death.

Hopefully, the film will be able to portray the themes touched on by the original play: the naivety of young soldiers, cowardice, feigning illness to return home, the class system within the trenches and the lack of understanding and support mechanisms to help with obvious mental health issues.

The film cast includes, among others, Paul Bettany, Sam Claflin, Asa Butterfield, Toby Jones, Robert Glenister, Tom Sturridge and Steven Graham. As the original stage play first offered an opportunity for a young Laurence Olivier to play Captain Stanhope, this illustrious group of actors follow in famous footsteps in bringing to life Robert Sherriff’s play with the release of ‘Journey’s End’ in February.

R.C. Sherriff (1896-1975) was a prolific writer of plays, film scripts and books.  Apart from ‘Journey’s End’, he is perhaps best known as one of the screenwriters for the adaptation of ‘Goodbye, Mr Chips’ (another film with a WWI background) and ‘The Dam Busters’.   You can find out more about him (apart from the Wikipedia article, of course) at www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk.