ARC Sheriff, is a play set in the muddy trenches of France during the First World War. The storyline concerns a group of British Officers on the front line, and the troubles and hardships they face. Raleigh, a new young Officer, Joins the company of his Childhood hero, but finds him dramatically changed due to all the strains and pressures of war.
The story Jumps from climax to climax, ND ends as Raleigh is killed and Stanhope leaves the dugout to face certain death as the German Spring Offensive begins. Journeys End is written in three acts – each beginning with an exposition, followed by almost complete dialogue. This was very interesting to me, because usually it is very hard to convey thoughts and feelings with only dialogue, yet ARC Sheriff is able to do so clearly. One predominant theme of this play was that of challenge – the challenge of living in such terrible physical and psychological conditions.
Physically, soldiers are forced to live in damp, muddy, rat and insect infested quarters, drinking contaminated water, with makeshift furniture and no bathrooms or toilets. This would be incredibly difficult for the troops, but most are able to find some way to cope – by turning some hardships into fun egg. Having Earwig races, by drinking to forget, or by talking about their families and their memories. The psychological conditions are also extremely tough, as they are confined together in small areas for long periods of time.
The thoughts of places far away would make reality much tougher, and some couldn’t cope and tried everything to leave – faking illnesses, or sometimes even self-inflicting them. Another clear theme of this play is pity – all characters stimulate a feeling of sympathy in the audience. In particular, we feel sorry for Stanhope. He is still a very young man, but has experiences and responsibilities far above his age – his best friend has been killed in an unnecessary raid, he continually hallucinates and is Leary mentally unstable, and he is a chronic drunk.
We also feel sorry for young Raleigh, who is fresh out of school, eager, excited, and blatantly naive. He cannot understand why Stanhope dislikes him, and he is killed within 48 hours of arriving in France. Almost every character evokes sadness and pity from the audience in this play. I very much enjoyed reading this play, and would highly recommend it to any Year 12 student. It alerted me to the bitter and harsh reality of war, and what our ancestors went through. It is a great play.