RC Sherriff's Journey's End is a play that slowly creeps up on you delivering a final punch that only a person made of steel couldn't feel.
It's set in a First World War billet some two 'rugger pitch' width's distance from the front line. Second Lieutenant Raleigh (pronounced 'Rawley') has just been sent to the front for the first time. He's painfully young and full of public school boy enthusiasm for the job at hand.
He's placed under Captain Stanhope (Stan-up), a young, dedicated soldier who's rose through the ranks who is revered by those he commands, never takes his leave and is renowned for his drinking. He's also an old family friend of Raleigh's and the weight of responsibility of having him under his command is immediately obvious.
The play covers three and bit days leading up to a big push. Soldiers come and go between watches, eat, sleep and drink. The everyday banal conversation is threaded with glints of the terror of their work which most of them take in their stride.
It's a brilliant piece of theatre. James Norton's is the stand out performance as the one-drink away from a break down Stanhope but the rest of the cast are equally as accomplished. Definitely one to catch if you can, I'm giving it five stars.
Graham Butler who play Raleigh was in Bright Star in which Mr W of course play John Keats