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Theatre / Journey's End

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A play written by R.C. Sherriff and first performed in 1928, it tells the story of a group of middle-ranked members of the British army. The overall premise is "War is both unpleasant and unnecessary." However, it is shot through with a vein of dark humour, particularly from Mason and Trotter, making it ring much truer than many of its doom-and-gloom imitators.

The main characters are:

The play has been adapted to film in various forms a total of five times, including a 1931 German version entitled The Other Side which featured German actors playing British soldiers, and Aces High in 1976, which set the story in a British Royal Flying Corps squadron rather than an infantry unit.

This play includes these tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Stanhope. The first thing we ever hear about him is that he's "drinking like a fish".
  • Anti-Hero: Stanhope is a heroic soldier and A Father to His Men, but his alcoholism and the stress of the war have left him with a darker side.
  • Big Brother Mentor: Raleigh regards Stanhope as this from their school days
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Ends just as an all out assault by the Germans happens. With the surviving characters fates being left ambiguous.
  • Chef of Iron: Mason is the officers' cook, but he's a soldier all the same. When the time to go over the top comes, he puts them away and joins the rest of his unit.
  • Cool Old Guy: Osbourne is viewed as one by the other characters.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Mason doesn't go a single scene without saying something. He's even brave enough to speak out of turn to the officers.
    • The German soldier they capture spends his entire interrogation scene making fun of the officer's German.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Stanhope is implied to cross this by the end.
  • Downer Ending: The play ends with Osbourne and Raleigh dead, Stanhope crossing the Despair Event Horizon, and the war still going on, with the protagonists' actions having made no difference in the long run.
  • A Father to His Men:
    • Osbourne is called "uncle" by most of the other officers, welcomes Raleigh, defends Stanhope's alcoholism to other officers and generally acts and a father figure to the other officers. Stanhope even jokes about him cleaning the dugout with a feather duster.
    • Defied when Stanhope rages at Raleigh for "feeding with the men"; if he gets too familiar with them, they won't respect him.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: A justified example in Stanhope, as the stress of the war has left him a broken man.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The stress of the war has left Stanhope with a severe drinking problem and a short temper, but he's still the same Nice Guy he was implied to be before deep down. Most apparent when he comforts Raleigh as he's dying.
  • Killed Offscreen: Osbourne and Raleigh are sent off-screen to participate in a raid on the German trenches, along with several unnamed men. When they return, it's revealed that Osbourne didn't survive.
  • The Mentor: Osbourne is older and more experienced than the other officers, looks out for Stanhope and dies tragically in the second act.
  • Na├»ve Newcomer: Raleigh. Which Stanhope constantly reminds him of.
  • Nepotism: Raleigh has "lots of uncles, and things like that", one of whom he asked if if he could get into Stanhope's regiment, only to be rebuffed and told he can "take his change like everyone else". The next day, he was told to report to Stanhope's regiment.
  • Sad Clown: Hardy and Hibbert both try to snark and put on a cheerful face, but are clearly as traumatised as anyone. Everyone is trying to be one in the meal scene, by pretending to cheerfully enjoy a meal while pretending they aren't in a muddy hole, just days from a massive attack just after they've lost Osbourne (except for Raleigh who can't bring himself to).
  • They Really Do Love Each Other: A truly tragic example. Stanhope shows just how deeply he cares for Raleigh when the latter is dying of his injuries. When Raleigh dies, he breaks completely.
  • War Is Hell: It shows the conditions of the trenches quite candidly, based on R. C. Sherif's own experiences. And the officers have it relatively easy.