Journey's End: the Classic War Play Explored
Theatre critic and journalist Robert Gore-Langton has set out to do exactly what the title of his book suggests. Presumably inspired by David Grindley's definitive revival of the play, which first saw the light of day in 2004 and has been knocking around almost ever since, the journalist explores Journey's End from every angle.
The first half of the book briefly considers the playwright R C Sherriff's background and sheltered life before moving on to look in detail at his war experiences, which provided the author with the material for a play that made him rich.
The research is comprehensive and detailed, to the extent that this publication might appeal as much to those interested in the Great War as Sherriff's depiction of it.
For theatre lovers, the story of how an unknown playwright managed first to get an initial production and then transform one of several plays in an almost identical genre that appeared practically at the same time into the most popular straight play of its era will fascinate.
The critical reception 85 years ago was at best mixed, enthusiasts thinking that Journey's End provided the perfect depiction of an experience that you would have thought most viewers would want to forget. Others regarded it as clichéd and an unworthy memorial to those that died so horribly and arguably unnecessarily.
In view of the current opinions about the piece, suggesting that Sherriff wrote it from a pacifist stance, Gore-Langton suggests that instead it was intended far more to represent army life and almost glorify it.
The writer's other works are considered relatively briefly while subsequent productions following a long fallow period are also explored in detail.
Journey's End: the Classic War Play Explored might well be directed primarily towards the academic market and those who are obliged to study the play to pass exams. If so, purchasers will have a good, if occasionally gruelling due to the subject matter, time while getting educated. General readers could also benefit from the investment.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher