100 years on, Journey’s End comes to Hitchin stage to spell out First World War truths

Journey's End at the Queen Mother Theatre

Journey's End at the Queen Mother Theatre - Credit: Archant

The grim experiences of trench warfare provided inspiration for moving drama years before Blackadder first went forth – and Hitchin’s Bancroft Players are reaching back nearly 100 years for their next production.

Only a decade after the guns fell silent in 1918, the relief and euphoria of victory had given way to questioning and criticism.

And that climate helped inform playwright R. C. Sheriff, who was badly wounded at Passchendaele during his own war service and won the Military Cross, when he wrote Journey’s End.

Although he was rejected by a string of theatres who couldn’t see the box office potential of a downbeat drama, after it was first performed in 1928 – with a young Laurence Olivier among the cast – it quickly became a worldwide hit.

The Bancroft Players production will be at Hitchin’s Queen Mother Theatre from Monday, November 10, to the following Saturday, and you can book tickets online at www.qmt.org.uk, or call 01462 455166.

Director Jon Brown said: “Rehearsals are going really well, and I am looking forward to bringing this great play to the Hitchin stage, especially during this significant centenary year of remembrance.

“I’ve been so impressed with the dedication, work and thought the cast have given to the project. The characters are so well defined and the play is so well written.

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“As far as I know, this is the first time the play has been performed at the Queen Mother Theatre.

“It’s a play that I have always admired and I felt it would be ideal to stage it this year, one hundred years since the start of the war.

“In some way, the costumes and props are the biggest challenge, but I found a specialist hire company – I wanted all the uniforms to be accurate, and we’ve got some amazing items.

“The focus of the play is a group of young officers trying to cope with all around them. They do all they can to keep spirits up and maintain a level of hope. The play is also a reminder of the massive sacrifice that was made and what a tragic and unbelievable loss of live the Great War brought.

“My aim will be to really draw the audience into the daily lives of these men, their friendships and their thoughts. I also want to focus on the simple things, and target the humanity of the situation – that these were just ordinary men who had another life, who had no choice, and who had to prepare for the ultimate sacrifice.”

The play’s run will start with a special evening performance on Remembrance Sunday, November 9, and the previous week members of the cast plan to be spend time beside the town centre war memorial in full costume on Sunday morning.