Humanity shines under fire

James Dutton and Tristan Brooke in Journey's End at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, until October 4
James Dutton and Tristan Brooke in Journey's End at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, until October 4

Incredible performances turn timely revival into a piece of living history, writes DAVID UPTON

The mud and blood-splattered trenches of the First World War may seem like the last place to go looking for evidence of man’s humanity, but this enduringly remarkable play continues to prove otherwise.

Amid all the current commemorations, it still stands apart as an example of living history.

Although not actually written in the heat of battle, it was penned so soon afterwards – and by one of its young officer combatants – that authenticity is beyond doubt.

And it’s the very language of the play that tends to be the ‘star’ of this timely revival. The clipped tones of the officer class, or the sentimental musings of lower ranks, have since been parodied many times, but as spoken here they have the effect of listening to an accurate aural record.

In the young officer roles of Stanhope and Raleigh, director David Thacker has cast two actors who, appropriately enough, look not long out of high school, let alone drama college.

James Dutton and Tristan Brooke convey, respectively, the nearly broken spirit of the battle-hardened and the almost puppyish excitement of a new recruit.

David Birrell is excellent as a ramrod-straight older officer.

David Upton