Globe Theatre, 104 London St, Dunedin

20/02/2014 - 01/03/2014

Production Details

Sherriff’s play was written and first staged in 1928; was filmed a few years later and has remained a theatre classic ever since, with long, sell-out seasons in Europe, the US (where a recent production won a Tony Award on Broadway) and elsewhere. Its account of life in the trenches in 1918, during a brief period of waiting for the next German offensive, is life as experienced by Sherriff himself during his time in the War.

The British officers, whose ages range from 18 to mid 40s, all cope differently with the waiting and the thoughts of what might happen when the waiting is over. Some see it as a Boys Own style lark, others as a horror to be feared. All know that they will be expected to lead their men when called to do so and we know that proportionately, more of these ‘mid-level’ officers died than any other group during the four years of the War.

It was a brutal time, one we might want to forget, but the longevity of the play comes from its focus on the men’s characters, of the black humour that kept them going, the silly games they played both to pass the time and to lighten their moods. It is a hard play because they knew what would be expected of them but it is also very gentle in parts as different characters interact with each other.

Ultimately this is not overtly an antiwar play but neither is it a patriotic one; it is just a snapshot of the way things were at that particular time – and it remains a powerful, profoundly moving play to this day.

Help please: Eleven WWI soldiers require lots of gear. We have been able to source most of it but are still looking for old enamel (‘tin’) mugs and grey or black blankets

The Globe will be the first theatre in town to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the War so we hope our production will be very well attended. So do please book soon.

20 February to 1 March 2014
[except 25 February]
Start 7.30pm  (2.00pm on Sunday)
Bookings: (03) 477 3274(03) 477 3274;
or Globe Theatre door sales (NB. Cash only)

Ticket Prices:
$22     Adult full price
$18     Seniors; Unwaged; Group price for 5 or more; University Students 
$15     Financial members of Friends of the  Globe
$10     School students with I.D.

Yes, regrettably we have been forced to increase ticket prices but hope that you will still feel that you get very good value for the annual cost of your membership.  

Click here for credits.

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Fine production of important play

Review by Barbara Frame 23rd Feb 2014

The trenches, we have always been told, were hell. This view is upheld by R.C. Sherriff’s Journey’s End, set in France in 1918 and one of the most important plays, ever, about war and what it does to people. 

At the Globe the detailed and highly realistic set, designed by Brian Beresford, who also directs this fine production, immediately tells us a lot. We don’t, mercifully, see the rats or feel the fleas, but the cramped space of a British officers’ dugout and the impossibility of any sort of comfort contribute to ever-present, almost palpable tensions. So do the eerie quiet and the endless-seeming waiting for something that, when it comes, is certain to be far worse than the waiting. 

The characters come from a variety of social backgrounds and demonstrate different ways of coping with war, usually involving wry trench humour, strategies for denying or minimising what is happening around them, and, of course, alcohol.

Apart from a few minor flubs, the 11-strong male cast perform commendably, with good rapport and excellent use of the constricted space. Particularly effective performances come from Matthew Scadden as Captain Stanhope – young, brilliant and, much of the time, sozzled – and Andrew Brinsley-Pirie as 2nd Lieutenant Raleigh, even younger, and new enough to army life to retain enthusiastic public-school attitudes. These two characters have a different relationship in civilian life, and this relationship adds to the dramatic interest. 

Written in 1928, this play still packs a powerful punch. It’s long and harrowing, not overtly anti-war but providing much for the audience to think about. The mood of the audience leaving the theatre on Thursday night was sombre, to say the least. 

Journey’s End is the first production in an ambitious and promising season, so do keep your eye on the Globe.


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Compelling, suspense-filled, deeply moving

Review by Terry MacTavish 22nd Feb 2014

I steal a sideways glance at the absorbed face of my guest and wonder what he’s thinking: so young, just eighteen; the same age as fresh-faced 2nd Lieutenant Raleigh, scrambling eagerly down from the trench to report for duty in the dugout on the stage below us; thrilled to be serving under the hero of his school rugger club. Generation after generation we have sent them off, “children ardent for some desperate glory”, to face appalling, senseless slaughter.

This year marks 100 years since ‘the war to end all wars’ began, and the timing is absolutely right for the Globe to revive Journey’s End.  Every Dunedinite who rises before dawn for the Anzac ceremony should not miss this gripping production of R C Sherriff’s masterpiece.  Its veracity will give them an understanding far deeper than mere sentiment of the true hell their ancestors endured. 

This classic play (first produced in 1928 with twenty-one year-old Laurence Olivier as the charismatic Captain) is set in an officers’ dugout on the Western Front, while the soldiers wait in nerve-racking suspense for the final great German offensive of 1918. 

It is shockingly authentic, written by a soldier who survived the carnage, having volunteered in 1914 when he too was just eighteen, though as a Grammar School pupil, young Robert wasn’t accepted for officer training until the first cohort of Public School boys had been killed. 

Seasoned director Brian Beresford has excelled himself with the Globe’s meticulously researched and hence very convincing presentation, enhanced by a wonderful, moving display of WW1 memorabilia in the foyer.  Nina Duke Howard has managed to source authentic khaki uniforms for soldiers who strove to present themselves well despite the mud and the rats.  The actors have been moulded into a tight unit and commit themselves ‘boots and all’, creating, on an outstanding set, an atmosphere that is all-absorbing. 

The compact Globe stage cradles a rough dugout: walls of wooden planks and rusty corrugated iron, decorated with sketches, religious artefacts, and saucy pin-ups.  Uncomfortable beds covered with grey army blankets surround the table where the men eat, argue, confide, plan raids and drink themselves stupid.  An open doorway reveals steps leading up to a sandbagged trench, where changing light hints at the time of day and the coming of spring.

The shelter itself is cosily lit by candles and smelly oil-lamps, the pungent scent drifting round the auditorium.  Occasionally we hear the shrill demented choirs of wailing shells.  Altogether lighting and sound by Brian Byas, especially the final vicious bombardment, are most effective, and combine with the Beresford-designed set (well worth a sly closer examination after the show) to draw us inescapably into the cramped, claustrophobic world of the soldiers. 

Conditions were, as Sherriff says in his autobiography, ‘sordid beyond belief’.  Inevitably the WW1 Blackadder comes to mind – you fear that at any moment Baldrick might wander in with a succulent slug – yet a certain grim humour is totally appropriate as each man reacts in his own way, and does what he must to survive.  The actors seize on any legitimate opportunity for laughter, whether over an absurdly low makeshift chair or a line describing grenades as ‘horrid little pineapples’. 

Beresford has drawn fine performances from actors who, more than most, must feel themselves to be a team. Almost all of the cast of eleven are young, as their characters were, and their youth is so touching – even the captured German soldier, trembling and pathetic, is just a boy – that it brings home the wicked stupidity of that tragic war. 

The Globe is fortunate, currently, to be fostering such a promising group of dedicated young actors, who present their characters with humility and a deep understanding of the issues. 

Matthew Scadden is, as required, simply splendid as Captain Dennis Stanhope, battle-hardened at twenty-one; the type of hero Rudyard Kipling might have created: courageous and gallant, a jest on his lips, “worshipped in the ranks”.  But after three years of hell, he is no longer the clean-cut school captain who enlisted; it is only whisky that enables him to go on. 

Scadden is taut as a coiled spring, carefully and credibly building up to his drunken rages and subsequent agonies of remorse.  For Stanhope tortures himself over what he has become, thinking himself unworthy of the admiration of Raleigh, and the love of the girl he left behind, who happens to be Raleigh’s sister.

2nd Lieutenant Raleigh, the ultimate hero worshipper, who thinks it’s “a frightful bit of luck” to be sent to this unit, is intelligently played by Andrew Brinsley-Pirie, with strength underlying the charmingly naive enthusiasm.  He has looked up to Stanhope throughout their schooldays as his hero and protector, but quickly learns that war has changed his idol and they are no longer on first name terms.  

Wait for the incredibly touching moment when Stanhope does finally speak Raleigh’s first name.  The other scene I loved when studying the play at school, where Raleigh is forced to hand over the letter home that Stanhope suspects will expose his drinking, proves as satisfying as ever.  Simply topping!  

Nowadays such worship would instantly be misconstrued.  Not, though, by wise older officer Osborne, who sees how crucial it is to have leaders who can be admired and emulated.  As Osborne, nicknamed ‘uncle’, Dale Neill gives a quietly moving performance, culminating in a surprisingly tender scene in which he and young Raleigh talk of their homes in England.  I really enjoyed seeing Neill, who usually plays comedy, coming to grips with a more gentle, sincere character.

The comic touches this time are provided by Private Mason (Oscar MacDonald) and 2nd Lieutenant Trotter (Keith Scott), both of whom are focused on food; the one obliged to struggle to scrape up and serve disgusting fodder, the other greedy enough to consume the muck.  Listen for the bacon riff! 

Newcomer Reuben Hilder brings great emotional intensity to the unappealing role of the malingerer Hibbert: “Another little worm trying to wriggle home”. The difficult scene, in which Stanhope presents a terrible ultimatum to Hibbert, before revealing something of himself, could easily slip into melodrama, but here is so thrilling I don’t notice my nails digging into my palms. 

All the other actors – Warren Chambers, Miguel Nitis, Brook Bray, Dean Alan Jones and Matt Foster – also acquit themselves nobly, carrying conviction in that class-conscious period, whether as arrogant colonel or down-trodden private.  We believe in them – their weaknesses, their resigned insight, their incredible courage – and we care about their fate. 

Wilfred Owens’s Anthem for Doomed Youth, movingly read by Jeffrey Vaughan, is woven into the fabric of the play, and it is part of the integrity of this production that there is no curtain call.  The final impression is tragic but beautiful, even uplifting. 

My young companion, though completely engrossed, is surprised there is not more blood ’n’ guts.  Rather there is miserable discomfort, and terrible fear alternates with boredom: indeed Sherriff had thought of calling his play ‘Waiting’.  Personally, tired of the violence of blockbuster movies, I am delighted this is a riveting psychological study rather than more fighting and shooting and running away or dying messily, but of course it is hard for youth not to see war as “an awfully big adventure”. 

That is exactly why it is vital for each new generation to see Journey’s End. It stands as a work of remarkable truth and clarity, given a compelling, suspense-filled and ultimately deeply moving interpretation here at the Globe.  As the Ukraine even now slides into civil war, I cannot imagine such theatre ever being less than shockingly relevant. 

Lest we forget the fallen: we owe it to them to share their journey.


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