Journey's End (Richmond & Tour)
Set in the trenches at Aisne towards the end of the immensely futile First World War, it gives a glimpse into the lives of a set of army officers in the days before the Germans launched their Spring Offensive, which saw tens of thousands of British soldiers die.
Sound and lighting from Gregory Clarke and Jason Taylor respectively set the trench mood wonderfully, with the former particularly effective at the very end of the play, where its use shocks and upsets in quick succession.
In his portrayal of Stanhope, James Norton is exquisite as a too-young man thrust into a situation he cannot really cope with, forced into blaming himself for the appearance of his younger, hero-worshipping friend, made to confront how much the war has changed him. He conveys perfectly the barely suppressed despair bubbling beneath the surface of this complex, troubled individual.
Dominic Mafham, too, excels as Osborne, whose steadying, comforting presence is felt all too keenly when it is no longer there. Mafham's performance is a masterclass in understatement - the only sign of how utterly terrified he is? The shaking of his hands just before he is sent over the top.
While Graham Butler is at times a little too stiff and mannered as child-soldier Raleigh, he certainly looks the part, and makes poor little Raleigh's blindness and gradual realisation of the situation quite moving.
Christian Patterson, meanwhile, provides some much-needed levity as the big and boisterous Trotter, allowing the audience to breathe for a moment at points, though he, too, skilfully shows there is more to the character – he just keeps it, like Osborne, well hidden away.
- Miriam Zendle