Friday, July 22, 2022

FRENCH LEAVE by Reginald Berkeley

    

                                                                REGINALD BERKELEY 


The meaning of the title “French Leave” dates to 1771. Its originally related to guests leaving a major

 social event without saying goodbye to the host and/or hostess. The military meaning of the term refers

 to a leisurely absence from a military unit.  

During the early summer of 1920, French Leave, was performed for four weeks in small cities and towns throughout the English countryside. This comedy opened at London’s Globe Theatre on July 15, 1920 and later transferred to the Apollo Theatre where it played for a total London run of 283 performances.  It was later reported in British newspapers that the play was “honoured by a visit from every reigning monarch in Europe.”

French Leave is a three-act play requiring six actors and two actresses.  It is set “Somewhere in France.” The setting for Act One is the sparsely furnished Mess Room for battle fatigued British Officers of a designated Brigade resting out of the line.  It is situated “in a ramshackle French house in the village of Bogusvillers.”  This dwelling serves as the resting accommodation or Headquarters Mess for any British Brigade that is in this area and on a few days leave from battle. 

Dorothy is the young, beautiful wife of Captain Harry Glenister.  She has come to France to spend a weekend with her husband while he is on leave. They were supposed to meet in Paris, but his unit’s city leave was cancelled. Instead Glenister’s battalion is on rest near the battlefield. Dorothy learned of his destination. She arrived early and is posing as “Mademoiselle Juliette,” the daughter of the French woman who owns the officers temporary dwelling.  During this act the three other officers who are at the house with Glenister, all meet the attractive daughter of Madame Denaux. All the officers are smitten. There are also two Mess soldiers with the officers, and the senior Mess soldier is key to guiding the evolving situation before it reaches a serious conclusion. 

Act Two is in the same room and it is after dinner. Dorothy has joined the Officers and one is being overly aggressive while vying for her attention which aggravates Glenister. The latter part of this act borders on becoming a full-blown farce since several male characters are sneaking around in the dark to find Dorothy.                                                             


                                                MADAME DENAUX'S  entrance in ACT II

Act Three takes place the next morning in the same room.  Eventually the truth is revealed that the “Landlady’s daughter is Captain Glenister’s English wife. Brigadier-General Root must act with prudence over the situation, and he determines that Dorothy must be sent back to Paris under military escort. Captain Glenister is designated for that assignment.

The production at the Apollo Theatre starred Renee Kelly (1888-1965) and M.R. Morand (1860-1922). While French Leave was still playing at London’s Apollo Theatre, it was produced in the United States by Marc Klaw (1858-1936). It opened in New York City at the Belmont Theatre after a short tryout run in Boston. Mr. Charles Coburn (1877-1961) and Mrs. Charles (Ivah Wills) Coburn (1878-1937) starred in the production. He played Brigadier-General Archibald Root and she played Mlle. Juliette (Dorothy). This production played at the Belmont for fifty-six performances.

While French Leave was not a major success in the United States, it continued to be popular in theatres throughout Great Britain. A new London production of French Leave opened during January 1930 at the Vaudeville Theatre. This play continued to be presented throughout the country during the entire decade. It even changed a 300-year-old tradition at St. John’s College, one of the thirty-one colleges at the University of Cambridge, when the Mummers presented their annual play. Males had always played the female roles, but Dorothy/Juliette was played by an actress.

A film version of French Leave was made in 1930 by D & H Productions, a British Film Production Company. It was distributed in the United Kingdom immediately before playing in the United States in 1931.  Madeleine Carroll (1906-1987) starred as Dorothy and the leading male role went to Sydney Howard (1884-1946) who played the same character Charles Coburn had. Haddon Mason (1898-1966) played the husband, Captain Harry Glenister. This film was directed by Jack Raymond (1886-1953).

On February 28, 1940, it was reported in the “Aberdeen Evening Express” that French Leave was one of the first plays to be sent to the British Forces fighting in France during World War Two. This tour was scheduled for two months. 


PHOTO: This photo appears in the 1922 Samuel French published edition of the script.  Madame Deaux was played by Anna Russell (????-????)

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

THE WHITE CHATEAU by Reginald Berkeley



 

Reginald Berkeley (1890-1935) was an Englishman of multiple talents, who served in World War One as a Captain in the British Rifle Brigade. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1916 for his “conspicuous gallantry in action.” Berkeley was a lawyer briefly before he was elected to serve as a Member of Parliament in 1922, where he served until 1924.  He wrote The White Chateau to be presented on the radio by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC).  It was aired throughout England on Armistice Night in November 1925. It is the first play in English specifically written for radio.

                                                                     


REGINALD BERKELEY  (1929)    
The White Chateau is divided into six scenes. It has a cast of fourteen characters: four women and ten men. An original music score was created by Norman O’Neill (1875-1934). O’Neill also served as Musical Director for the BBC radio program.

The White Chateau has a narrator, designated as THE CHRONICLER, who sets the focus for each scene. He informs the audience that as SCENE ONE begins “This story of the White Chateau” that was built centuries ago in Flanders plain, was burned down, and rebuilt through succeeding years.  It would be destroyed once more and rebuilt again due to another war.

When Scene One commences, members of the Van Eysen family, who reside in the White Chateau, are having breakfast when suddenly their meal is disrupted by men in uniforms. These soldiers are not dressed in the color of their country’s military.  Not only is the family’s breakfast disrupted, but the family is plunged into an immediate tragic situation with the murder of their son as World War One is sprung upon them by the invading German soldiers. 

SCENE TWO:

THE CHONICLER: informs the audience that a war is raging:

The Grand Headquarters Over All

Is some great Mansion—once alight

With children’s voices, loud and small—

Now bare and bleak, directs the fight…

The White Chateau is serving as headquarters for Germany’s military leadership in this area.  This scene reveals the issues that the Chief of Staff and Commander-in-Chief have with the Minister for War.

SCENE THREE:

THE CHRONICLER recounts the current situation at the Chateau:

An army in long retreat,

Trudge, trudge of tired feet, . . .

Long since departed G.H.Q.

From the Chateau (with its whiteness faded!)

And leaves the Chateau stark

                    In No-Man’s-Land.

A division of the British army arrives at the Chateau. The surrounding grounds of the property have been further destroyed by German troops building trenches. Some German soldiers remain at the Chateau and as the British division attempts to take the Chateau the final rounds of shelling demolish the west wall of the building.

SCENE FOUR:

THE CHRONICLER ruminates about the normal activities for day and night, but concludes with “The night—a nightmare from the Deeps of Hell, The Day—a worse Damnation?” 

This scene announces the arrival at the ruined Chateau by American soldiers. They must defeat the remaining German soldiers.  The Americans come under enemy fire and the captain of the unit is killed. A soldier named Philip is now in command of this American unit.

SCENE FIVE:

THE CHRONICLER laments the loss of the chateau and the land “on which no blade of grass

could grow---”

A Casualty Clearing Station is currently operating on the property. Philip is being taken care by an American doctor.  The nurse is Diane, the sole surviving member of the Van Eysen family, who lived in the Chateau in Scene One.  She takes care of Philip, and a romantic relationship develops between them.

SCENE SIX:

THE CHRONICLER laments man’s need “to slay and slay and slay---” Philip and Diane are married, and they are rebuilding The White Chateau. During this final scene Diane has a dream in which “Voice” recounts to her the long history of war this piece of land has endured, and a future filled with more wars. At the conclusion of the play, there is hope expressed by the Voice of The Chateau for there to be lasting world peace. Berkeley wanted the audience to realize that “Nothing is to be gained by labouring the causes of the Great War and reviving the animosities that it bred.”

The White Chateau was published in 1925 as a book and again in 1927. During these two years, six editions of the script were published. It obviously was a popular drama to read. The Publisher was Williams and Norgate, Ltd.

In March 1927, The White Chateau was staged at London’s Everyman’s Theatre. It played for thirteen performances before it closed. This production was reworked and basically recast prior to its next opening in late April 1927 at St. Martin’s Theatre. The second London production received excellent reviews. Henry Oscar (1891-1969) was praised for his impressive elocution as the Chronicler in The Illustrated London News on May 7, 1927.  Another news paper especially noted the trench scenes that were staged with heightened effects that made them harrowing.

                                                                    

                                                   TRENCH SCENE SAINT MARTIN'S THEATRE

The White Chateau had another transformation in 1938 when it was made into a film by the BBC.  It was released in England on November 11,1938 and it starred Peter Ashmore (1916-1997), Claude Bailey (1895-1950) and Ivor Barnard (1887-1953).

What is unique about this play is how it relates to the effects of wars on the land and the distinguished historic structures that help tell the story of western civilization. It further recounts the human desire to rebuild even though “Men have not learned the lessons of going to war.” It pleads through The Voice that “There can be no more war. It is too wasteful, too uncivilized.” 


NOTES:

1. Reginald Berkeley's photo appeared in THE ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS 2/2/1929.

2. INFANTRY ATTACK photo appeared in THE ILLUSTRATED SPORTING & DRAMATIC NEWS.



Wednesday, March 2, 2022

TWO SCOTTISH ONE-ACT PLAYS

 

THE HOME FRONT by Hal D. Stewart

Although this play was written after World War One ended, it focuses on what life was like during the war for women living in Scottish farming communities. It premiered on January 27, 1931 in a production created by the Ayrshire Federation of Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes in the city of Dunlop. The next production was staged by the Scottish Players in the Lyric Theatre in Glasgow on the 24th of March of the same year. Following those two productions, The Home Front became a very popular play with Scottish women’s drama groups.

The cast is comprised of seven female characters.  It is set in the light and airy kitchen of the Murdoch’s farm. The year is 1918. Billy Ashmore is an enlisted member of the “Land Girls.” She is from Glasgow but was assigned to work on this farm.  Billy is in her early twenties and dressed in her uniform of khaki tunic and breeches. When she first arrived on the farm, Mrs. Murdoch’s son John was still at home. John and Billy became engaged prior to his leaving to fight in France.  

                                                            

                                                               A LAND GIRL AT WORK

On the day when the play begins, Mrs. Murdoch and her two daughters are expecting John to come home for a brief furlough. A problem suddenly develops among the town busybodies. Billy had gone to a dance the previous evening that was held for the British soldiers stationed in town.  She danced with the officer who is billeted at the Murdoch farm and the local farm ladies believe that was not appropriate behavior for an engaged woman. It was much ado about nothing, however, the play ends sadly with word of John’s death in France.

When Stewart wrote this play, there was a need for scripts with roles only for women.  This casting underlines the fact that so many men had either died or been severely wounded. Thus, males were in limited supply for every type of work.  The Home Front also clearly depicts how the local women frequently needed help in the fields to produce food for market as well as coping with the business responsibilities of running the farms. The British Women’s Land Army of 23,000 females took the place of the 100,000 workers lost to the armed forces. This play is a tribute to these women and a remembrance of their service.

Hal D. Stewart (1899-????) is remembered as a Scottish stage producer and director; however, he also established a reputation in London theatre.  His playwriting seems to be mainly focused during the years between 1930 through 1950s.  The Home Front continued to be produced regularly for Drama Festivals in Scotland into the middle of the 1980s.

 

SYMPHONY IN ILLUSION by James Wallace Bell

Symphony in Illusion was written in 1931-32. Like The Home Front, it was written for a female cast of seven women. This unusual play has a strong anti-war message, and it was a unique script for the women’s drama clubs of Scotland. James Wallace Bell (????-1984) was known as a theatrical producer as well as the acclaimed author of “Symphony.”

Symphony in Illusion is a drama that was conceived in the format of a symphonic composition.  It is divided into three movements instead of acts.  Each movement is assigned a musical term to designate the pace of the speech and movement.

First Movement: Allegro.  Scene---A bare stage. One quickly recognizes this play presents a contrast between reality and illusion since the seven actresses engage in preparing the stage for the play.  “SHE-WHO-PLAYS-THE-MAD-GIRL” is designated by the playwright as the director of the play. The actresses argue over trifles as they set up the scenic elements utilizing a brisk and lively pace. When the scenery and props are in place, the actresses take their positions on the stage as the lighting darkens to a black-out.

Second Movement: Largo. The characters:  A Woman, A Widow, A Girl, A Wanton, An Old Woman, Mary, and A Mad Girl.  The Scene—it is night. This segment of the play is the war interlude. The major scenic elements include the broken steps leading to the portal, without doors, of a war-ruined church. “The muffled rhythm of distant guns is heard in the darkness; not loud, but terribly insistent.” The women are weary and listless. They all wear drab peasant dresses, and have shawls covering their heads and shoulders, except A Girl and the Wanton. The characters are highly strung and nervous to the point of hysteria.  The war has been in progress for four years.

This play shows how these females relate to each other during these trying circumstances. The older characters continue to harangue a young woman who had married a man from the enemy country, before the war had commenced.  They do not let her have any food since they treat her as an enemy. She and her baby starve to death despite the character named Wanton, who pleads for the young mother’s life. As the act concludes and the sounds of war cease, dawn rises and Mary, the voice of reason in this drama, goes to bury her son.

Third Movement: Andante non troppo. “All the lights click on, white and hard; the dawn becomes merely a back-cloth.”  Mad Girl (with a sigh of relief) announces “And that’s that.” The other actresses start talking about their characters and the ideas in the play as they begin to clear the stage of the props and scenic elements. Shortly the overhead lights are switched-off. Only the foot lights illuminate the stage. “Girl” continues to stare out into the distance before running off.  Mary and Wanton continue to collect the crosses left on stage and exit as the footlight “quickly dim out.”

This play was published in 1933 by Samuel French, Ltd., London. Like The Home Front, Symphony in Illusion was also produced by many universities and Dramatic Societies throughout Scotland during the 1930s and 1940s. It won first prize for those groups who mastered the style of production and the truth of its message. It was a well-known play during the period between World War One and Two. It is an unique script.


NOTE: To see more of The Women's Land Army in Pictures visit www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-                               womens-land-army-in-pictures

     

Thursday, February 3, 2022

GILBERT EMERY’S THE HERO

 

The Hero, written in 1920, was Gilbert Emery’s (1875-1945) first play. Emery was thirty- nine years old when he served during World War I as an American Ambulance Driver. He was stationed in France for nine months during 1914-15.  Emery was a multi-talented person who acted in at least eighty films. He also wrote novels, poetry and had seven of his plays produced on Broadway. 

                                                                         GILBERT EMERY

The Hero is a unique story that focuses on a soldier, Oswald Lane, who in 1919 returns home to a small suburban town near New York City. His Mother, Sarah, and older brother, Andrew, have not seen Oswald since he ran away from home twelve years earlier at the age of sixteen. The family has had no contact with him since that time.

Andrew, about forty years old, works as an insurance clerk and is married to Hester who is twenty-six years old. They have a six-year-old son named Andy. There are two other persons who live with this family in their “small rented, jerry-built house.” Sarah Lane is Andrew’s mother, who was a farm woman, and Marthe Roche, a young, pretty orphan from Belgian. She helps with the household chores as well as providing some care for Andy. Hester and Marthe are immediately enamored of handsome, brave Oswald who returns unexpectedly from a hospital in France.

Act Two is in the “Sitting Room of the House.” It is three months after Oswald’s arrival home. He had spoken at the church earlier this evening about his war experiences. Oswald’s heroism is established in the minds of the people of this town, while his character at home reveals a man who is without scruples.

Act Three is in the same location. It is 8 AM the next morning. Oswald is determined to leave this house and return to France.  He plans to steal the church collection that resulted from his talk the previous evening. Since Andrew oversees the church’s money, last night’s collection has been locked away in his home. Oswald takes it and leaves. Just as he sets out to depart from their small town for France, the kindergarten where little Andy goes to school catches on fire. Once again Oswald proves to be heroic. This time it is at the cost of his own life; however, Andrew can now neatly explain the loss of the Church’s money so no further disgrace from Oswald’s latest misdeed falls upon his family.

The Hero never openly discusses what is to be done with the man who is a “hero” in war and an “undesirable citizen” when at home?  But in acts two and three, Oswald’s attitude and actions strip him of his former glory until the play’s conclusion. This is obviously an unusual and unsentimental topic for the decade immediately following World War One.

The Hero premiered in New York City at the Longacre Theatre on March 14,1921, one year after the end of the Spanish flu. It was a short engagement of five “special matinee” performances.   Its main Broadway production opened at the Belmont Theatre on September 5, 1921, where it ran for eighty performances. Sam H. Harris (1872-1941) was producer of both productions as well as owner of the Longacre Theatre. There were only two actors who appeared in both productions—Robert Ames (1889-1931) played Oswald and Blanche Friderici (1878-1933) played Sarah Lane.  The other four roles were recast, and Richard Bennett (1870-1944) played Andrew Lane.

The Hero was published in Arthur Hobson Quinn’s “Contemporary American Plays” and in Burns Mantle’s “Best American Plays of 1921-22.”  During the 1920s, The Hero was produced in numerous American cities.

On January 1, 1923 an American silent film was released and the storyline was based on The Hero. It starred Oswalt Glass (18??-19?? ) as Oswald and Barbara La Marr (1896-1926) as Hester Lane.  When the film was released in Great Britain during the second week in November 1923, its title was changed to His Brother’s Wife. It had good reviews and played throughout the country for three years.

On April 8,1930 the “Evening Express” newspaper in Los Angeles California reported “two of the largest audiences ever to witness a legitimate stage play in California are expected at the Shrine Civic Auditorium” to attend two performances of “The Hero.”  The seating capacity of this auditorium was 6500 persons.  This production starring Broadway actor Grant Mitchell (1874-1957) was already being performed in Los Angeles by the Civic Repertory Theatre at the Music Box Theatre, but the entire cast and production were moved to the Shriner’s theatre and the two performances were free of charge to the Shriners and their families.

During March 2014, there was an Off-Broadway production of The Hero at the Metropolitan Playhouse. It opened on March 8 and closed on March 30th.  Christian Rozakis played the role of Oswald. The New York Times review on March 10th states:

           There’s a lot to watch in “The Hero.”  But the real action is under the surface.

           This exceptional revival of Gilbert Emery’s 1921 play is steeped in subtext

           and repressed emotions: confusion, regret, desire and despair. Here, the silent

           moments are among the most moving.     

 

The most recent undertaking of this play was part of a celebration of Gilbert Emery’s life and works in his birth city of Naples, New York. The Bristol Valley Theatre presented a live stage reading of The Hero on October 24, 2021.

There is something about this play that lingers with you after even a single reading. The copy I read is in “Modern American and British Plays” by S. Marion Tucker. (New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1931)    

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

PAUL RAYNAL’S THE UNKNOWN WARRIOR (Le Tombeau Sous L’Arc de Triomphe)

 

The French title of Paul Raynal’s 1924 play refers to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier which was created in Paris in1920. It is the grave for a World War One Unknown French Soldier located beneath L’Arc de Triomphe. The French monument created an interest in other countries to dedicate a similar single national site to commemorate a nation’s unknown military dead, whose identities are “known but to God.”

Raynal (1885-1971) served as a soldier of France for four years during World War I in Champagne and in the French Army of the Orient. This special French unit was created in October 1915 after the allies lost the Dardanelles Campaign. His military experience fueled Raynal with the desire to write a trilogy of plays about World War One. The Unknown Warrior written in 1923-24 is the first of these plays.  It was followed by La Francerie, a three act play that was performed in 1933 at the Comedie-Francise in Paris. The third play, written in 1935, is titled Le Materiel humain. It was staged after World War II. This third play was not a theatrical success; however, it was published in 1946.

The Unknown Warrior is a tragedy in three acts.  Act I consist of five scenes. Acts II and III have one scene each.  The cast is composed of three characters. The French Soldier wears “the regulation uniform of an infantry regiment without any badges or distinguishing marks, save a number on the collar.” His Father, who is not described, and “Aude, a girl of twenty,” who is the Soldier’s fiancĂ©e. At the opening of Act One, Aude and the Father are awaiting the arrival of The Soldier for his first visit home. Aude has not seen him in fourteen months and eight days.  They plan to get married during his four-hour visit. The date is October 8, 1915, and the time is 2 A.M. “The setting is a house in the country, a day’s journey from Paris.”

Over the course of the Soldier’s brief visit, the reader is exposed to how the war is overshadowing his youth, his love, and his life.  Each one of the characters represents a point of view regarding war. This places the Soldier in conflict with his patriotic father who does not realize the hard realities of the current war. His relationship with Aude is not as solid as he hoped. She held the romantic idea of being attached to a soldier departing to the Front. Additionally, the Soldier offered her the opportunity to move to his farm, away from Paris, where she would live more safely.

Upon the Soldier’s return home, Aude realizes his absence has dissolved her love for him. She gives herself to him even though the planned marriage ceremony never takes place. The Soldier is determined to live in the present during every moment of his home visit and he succeeds despite the difficulties the other two characters present.  The Soldier was granted this four-hour home visit since he volunteered for a dangerous assignment which is believed by his Commanding Officers to lead to certain death.

The focus of the play is on the Soldier. It shows the issues that soldiers must face to survive on the battlefield.  The attitude of the soldier is one of endurance. Throughout the play the Soldier raises the question “what is war?” and there are multiple answers—War is drudgery. War is uncertainty. War is the anguish of waiting. War is learning how to accept bad news. War is the faith that something positive is to evolve from all the sacrifice. These are several of the insights.

The Unknown Warrior was premiered on January 30, 1924 at the Paris National Theatre, the Comedie-Francaise. Not every critic was positive about this play following its initial performances. Some critics believed it was critical and disrespectful of the common French soldier, but these points were eventually dismissed.  The play was revived in 1929 at the Theatre de l’Odeon, Paris.

The Unknown Warrior was first performed in England in 1924 at London’s Arts Theatre Club, but it was not published in English until 1928.  The translation was done by Cecil Lewis (1898-1997) who was an ace English pilot during WWI as well as one of the founders of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC). These are but two among several other interesting activities that bear his name. Lewis’s translation of The Unknown Warrior had ten editions in its first year of publication.

After its Paris premier, Raynal’s play quickly attained popularity throughout Europe. During the years between the two World Wars, it was staged in Berlin, Stockholm, Vienna, Moscow, and many other continental cities.  The American production opened on Broadway the evening of October 29,1928. The cast consisted of Tyrone Power, Senior (1869-1931) as the Father, Beatrix Thomson (1900-1936) played Aude and Lester Vail (1899-1959) A French Soldier.  The production was staged by Charles Hopkins (1884-1953) who also owned and operated the theatre. The production was produced by arrangement with Arts Theatre.  It closed in November 1928. It received mixed newspaper reviews.

Maurice Browne (1881-1955) a theatre producer born in England, brought his 1931 production of The Unknown Warrior to open in New York City before touring Pacific coast cities.  He had several motivations for doing this including his deep belief in the play and his desire to play the leading role of The Soldier. The tour started with four performances on Broadway at the Morosco Theatre.  It opened October 22,1931 and closed October 31st. Other cast members included Rosalinde Fuller (1892-1982) as Aude and Daniel Reed (?) as the Father.

The next major production occurred when BBC Television presented a live performance of this play on November 11, 1951. Arthur Wontner (1875-1960) played The Father, Isabel Dean (1918-1977) Aude and Peter Neil (1913-1994) The Soldier. This performance was to commemorate the armistice that ended World War One.

The most recent production of The Unknown Warrior was presented in November, 2021 at the Finborough Theatre in London to mark the centenary of the burials of the unknown warriors in France and England.

Along with Journey’s End, The Unknown Warrior is considered by many critics and scholars as one of the finest pieces of dramatic literature resulting from World War One.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

R. C. SHERRIFF’S JOURNEY’S END



                                                                  Robert Cedric Sherriff

When I started planning this blog, I quickly decided that since Journey’s End was the most well-known World War One play in the English language, I would not write a post about it. What changed that decision was the fact that I mentioned this play in my previous post, Ernst Johannsen’s Brigade Exchange. I feel it is only fair to have Journey’s End as an available post if a reader wants to have a quick source at hand.

Robert Cedric Sherriff (1896-1975) wrote Journey’s End in 1928 for his boat club’s annual fund-raising event. He was required to have an all-male cast. Sherriff drew upon his World War One experiences, while serving as a Captain in the British armed forces at the age of twenty-one, to write this play. 

Journey’s End is set in a British dugout before Saint-Quentin, a town located in northern France. Act One: Monday evening, March 18, 1918. This specific date relates the action of the play historically to the major German Spring Offensive that began on March 21, 1918.

The main room in the dugout is lighted by candles set in two bottles on the table.  The doorway frames several steps that lead up to the parapet of a trench and a narrow strip of starlit sky. On the table is a litter of papers and a bottle of whisky. Officer’s equipment hangs in a mass from a nail in the wall. This is the Officer’s area and Captain Hardy is waiting for a small new group of soldiers to arrive. After Hardy leaves, Second Lieutenant Raleigh arrives to join this unit.  Raleigh went to school with Captain Stanhope, the commander of this unit. Raleigh is excited to be assigned to Stanhope’s unit. This act sets up the possibility of an impending major enemy attack as well as demonstrating the relationships between the officers and the only lower-class soldier in their dugout, Private Mason, their cook.

Act Two. Scene 1: Early Tuesday morning. Officers Osborne and Raleigh are having breakfast as Second Lieutenant Trotter enters. It is quiet in the trench where this platoon of soldiers has spent the past six days. The British trench is a football field away from the German trench which is approximately seventy yards long. Since the English believe the Germans are planning an attack within forty-eight hours, this group of soldiers must stay on duty.

Act Two. Scene 2: Afternoon of the same day. Stanhope believes the German’s major attack will be on Thursday morning. The Colonel arrives with a special order for a small group of Stanhope’s men to raid the German trench to grab a German soldier and bring him back for interrogation.

Act Three. Scene 1: Wednesday afternoon, towards sunset.   Osborne and Raleigh are the two officers who will be directing the raid and they leave on this assignment.  They will select several soldiers in the trench to go with them. There is the sound of machine-guns and a smoke bomb explodes.  Shortly after the attack, a young German soldier is brought down into the dugout for the Colonel to interrogate. The German attack for tomorrow is confirmed. Lieutenant Osborne was killed during the raid.

Act Three. Scene 2. Late Wednesday evening.  Dinner is over.  There is a sense of jovial comradery among the officers. Raleigh returns to the dugout after everyone except Stanhope retires.  Stanhope is angry with him since he remained on duty rather than return for supper.

Act Three. Scene 3: Thursday, towards dawn. The attack is expected shortly, and the officers are awakened and quickly go into the trench.  The final moments of the play involve Raleigh, who is mortally wounded, and Stanhope. 

This plot outline describes the situation the playwright constructed. It illustrates how most of the characters mask the fact they are in constant mortal danger. The intension of this drama is to reveal to the reader/audience members the effects of war on frontline military. Previously there had not been a drama that portrayed this situation so realistically.

Following the boat club’s staging of this play, Sheriff convinced the Incorporated Stage Society of London to present two performances of his play for its thirtieth season at the Apollo Theatre. These performances were presented December 9-10, 1928. Laurence Olivier (1907-1989) played Stanhope and Maurice Evans (1907-89) played Raleigh. After positive reviews, Producer Maurice Brown (1881-1955) transferred the Stage Society’s production to London’s Savoy Theatre opening on 1/21/1929. The only actor who could not assume his same role for Brown’s production was Olivier who had to honor another commitment. Captain Stanhope was played by Colin Clive (1900-1937). This production transferred to the Prince of Wales Theatre on June 3,1929 and continue to be performed through June 7,1930. Its London run totaled an impressive 593 performances.                                                               

                                                                          Colin Clive

Shortly after Journey’s End opened in London, Maurice Brown, who had also been living part-time in America, worked with Gilbert Miller (1884-1969) to stage an American production.  Journey’s End opened on Broadway in the Henry Miller Theatre on March 22, 1929 and closed May 17,1930 after its 485th performance. Brown arranged for British actors Colin Keith Johnson (1896-1980) to play Stanhope and Derek Williams (1911-1988) as Raleigh to appear in the Broadway production.

There were two later productions of Journey’s End on Broadway. The revival opened at the Empire Theatre on September 18,1939 and closed after its sixteenth performance on September 30th.  British actor Colin Keith Johnson starred as Stanhope and Jack Merivale (1917-1990) played Raleigh. The most recent Broadway production opened February 22, 2007 at the Belasco Theatre and played 125 performances before closing on June 10, 2007. It starred Hugh Dancy (1975-   ) as Stanhope and Stark Sands (1978-    ) as Raleigh. 

On August 1, 1939, The Stage reported that the English Players performing in Paris, France gave their one hundredth performance of Journey’s End.  This production performed in English was slated to continue its run until the end of September when this company was booked to tour in Switzerland, Germany and Holland. 

There have been three significant British revivals of the play.  To celebrate Journey’s End seventy-fifth anniversary, David Grindley (no dates available) directed this production. It opened in January, 2004 at London’s Comedy Theatre and later was transferred to the Playhouse. Paul Taylor in The Independent stated that it was a “Deeply affecting revival.”  Grindley created in July, 2011 the second professional theatre London revival. This production starred James Norton (1985-   ) as Stanhope.

The third production mounted by MESH Theatre Company opened for a limited run October 10, 2017 and it played through November 12, 2017. This production opened in Ypres, Belgium and it was to recognize the 100th anniversary since the playwright fought and was wounded in the Third Battle of Ypres. Sally Woodcock, the director of this production and founder of MESH, returned to Flanders with her theatre company in 2018 to present Journey’s End to mark the World War One Armistice and again in November 2019 to perform in the Skindles Ballroom that during World War One had served as the British officers’ club in Poperinge, near Ypres.

There were three major films made of Journey’s End. The first one was released in April 1930.  It was “AN ALL-TALKING PRODUCTION” produced by Gainsborough Pictures and Tiffany Productions. It was filmed at the Fine Arts Studios in Los Angeles, California. The production was directed by James Whale (British,1889-1957). Colin Clive reprised his role as Stanhope and David Manners (1900-1998) played Raleigh.

The second major film was made for BBC TV in 1988. It was directed by Michael Simpson and stars Jeremy Northam (1961-   ) as Stanhope and Mark Payton (1960-    ) as Raleigh. The most recent film of Journey’s End was released 12/14/2017 and it is still available on Prime Video. It is a British production directed by Samuel Dibb (1968-    ). It stars English actors Sam Clafin (1986-   ) as Stanhope with Asa Butterfield as Raleigh (1997-    ).

This drama is a must read if you are interested in World War One.