Skip to main content

Review of Journey's End by Masque Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

While you often feel you should be sitting admiring R.C. Sherriff's Journey's End, rather than enjoying it, you simply can't help it at times. For so much of the play, especially in the first half, it is rife with so much humour that you find yourself laughing at this group of men, who despite potentially being moments from death, are living life through companionship and laughter. Most of the comedy rather interestingly comes from the trials of food and drink and the often ineffectiveness of Mason the cook (Kevin Pinks).

Set in the trenches in early 1918, Sherriff's play centres around a company of men commanded by Stanhope (Tristan Smith) and the gradual build-up to the battle at St. Quentin. It is a stark believable world, which comes as no surprise as the writer saw service himself in the East Surrey Regiment.

As is often the case with Masque Theatre productions, this has a very strong cast. Tristan Smith is a cold, quietly brooding Stanhope, at times seemingly more concerned about what his company thinks of him and his alcoholic state than any potential danger over the top. His chief concern is in the arrival Raleigh (Davin Eadie), whom he knew from school, and has another more personal connection with. Davin gives as always an assured performance, full of the eagerness of a new recruit, not yet showing the scares of battle than have ravaged the rest of the company. Completing what could be considered the main trio of characters, is Martin Williams as the older, and clearly haunted Osborne. As always Martin gives a superb performance, clearly defining the jolliness of the play in the first act and the fearfulness of what is to come in the second act.

The rest of the cast help to complete a good package, with Alistair Way a comical Trotter, generally more troubled by the quality of his next meal and when it is due, rather than the battles taking place beyond. The food talk links to perhaps the most surprising performance of the play, that of Kevin Pinks and his cook Mason. While always a solid stalwart of many a Masque show, those I have seen previously have not been as successful as his turn here. Deadpanning superbly every moment of food trifles occurring, he creates with the help of the rest of the cast, a very impressive amount of comedy in what could be a bleak drama in reality.

The set, as always from Mark Mortimer, successfully transplants a little bit of war torn Europe to The Playhouse stage, and it is nicely dressed to make it again an impressive backdrop. Debut director Ste Applegate also shows a confident first turn in the chair, creating a flowing piece of drama, and confident enough to take on a couple of smaller roles of Hardy and a German soldier into the bargain.

So, Masque Theatre once again brings solid drama to the Northampton audience with a quality production of a stirring and surprisingly comic war drama. Really enjoyable, if that word perhaps could be used for such a play?

Performance reviewed: Friday 17th February, 2017 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton.

Journey's End ran between Tuesday 14th and Saturday 18th February, 2017 at the Playhouse Theatre, Northampton.

Details can be found at http://www.masquetheatre.co.uk/



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Woman In Mind by Masque Theatre at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

I like Alan Ayckbourn, I may only have seen a few of his vast array of plays previously, but all have been a delight, often crazy yes, but constantly funny, and especially in the second act spiralling often into just on the very edge of believable nonsense. With Woman In Mind, acknowledged by many as one of his finest works, my own personal jury is very much out on whether I liked it or not.
What was very good, mostly, however, were the performances, most especially the two that we are introduced to at the very beginning. The prostrate Susan (Nicola Osborne), with sinisterly lurking rake alongside her, and the bag struggling doctor, Bill (John Myhill).
Nicola Osborne has the unenviable task in this play of never leaving the stage, a feat in itself. Add to this the constant weaving of the character's world (more on this later), and you have a role featuring some significant challenge, one that Osborne ably surmounts. I once described Osborne as a "safe pair of hands" in …

Press launch of Sting's The Last Ship at Errol Flynn Filmhouse, Northampton

On Friday 16th February 2018, I attended the official press launch of The Last Ship. In attendance were the writer of the show, Sting, and cast members for the 2018 UK tour Richard Fleeshman, Charlie Hardwick and Joe McGann, with musical support from Rob Mathes.

During the event, opened entertainingly by producer Karl Sydow, Sting and the cast members performed seven of the songs from the show: The Last Ship (Sting), Dead Man's Boots (Sting and Fleeshman), Sail Away (Hardwick), The Night the Pugilist Learned to Dance (Fleeshman), What Say You Meg? (Fleeshman) and What Have You Got? (Sting and cast).

Each of these songs showed us a great background to the evocative tale that The Last Ship tells, of a community under attack as its crucial shipbuilding industry begins to fail. The performers and Sting himself delivered the songs with huge passion, despite, as Sting himself commented, the earnestness of the hour, with the event beginning at 10 am.

The Last Ship was initially inspired …

Review of Accused, performed by University Of Northampton BA Actors at St Peter's Church, Northampton

Going into seeing Accused, the first devised show by this years third year BA Actors graduates, I have to confess I shamefully knew nothing of its influence, Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol. However, it wasn't a great leap for me to identify that the piece gorgeously sung by the whole cast at the end of this really imaginative piece, was indeed part of the Ballad itself.

The Ballad it turns out, written by Wilde during exile following release from Reading tells of the execution of a man called Wooldridge, a man hung for cutting the throat of his wife. In Accused, we have another prisoner, destined to hang, but cleverly for what remains to its end, an unknown crime. It's bad, pretty bad, clear from the reaction of both prisoner and guards alike, and the Accused's life is generally in danger a great deal, long before the Executioner (played extremely nicely by Georgi McKie) comes to do her bidding.

Playing the Accused, and really rather brilliantly, is Alexande…