Sunday, 13 June 2021

Up close and personal with the horrors of the trenches

THE First World War: senseless, horrific, wasteful; yes to all of that, but they’re only words, we’d need to have been in the trenches ourselves to get their real meaning.

And that is where RC Sheriff’s timeless Journey’s End takes over because he served and was badly injured at Passchendaele. He knew his subject and the power of actions over words.

This extraordinary work is done full justice by the Watermill where director Paul Hart has squeezed very gram of nuance from the deceptive script. The result is a profoundly affecting evening.

It’s a portrait of humans in a frantically inhuman world, trying to keep their humanity and failing as they must. Young officers arrive straight from public school where their success on the sports field is deemed aptitude enough to lead men through the churning mud, gas, bullets and shrapnel of Flanders.

The claustrophobic world of an officers’ dugout is recreated and made all the more closed in by the Watermill itself. We are right there with the characters as they speak their jolly public school banter, drink and generally try to mask their seething fear.

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