A har­row­ing Jour­ney into trench war­fare

Taranaki Daily News - - Entertainment - James Croot james.croot@stuff.co.nz

Only the ca­ma­raderie of his fel­low cast­mates kept Toby Jones from be­ing over­whelmed on the set of Jour­ney’s End.

The 52-year-old British ac­tor plays C Com­pany chef Ma­son in the World War I drama, adapted from for­mer army of­fi­cer Robert Cedric Sher­riff’s much-ad­mired 1928 play of the same name.

Set in the French trenches dur­ing the fi­nal spring of the war, it de­tails the grow­ing ten­sion among the men as they wait for a seem­ingly in­evitable Ger­man of­fen­sive.

In or­der to repli­cate the ex­pe­ri­ence for the ac­tors and the au­di­ence, di­rec­tor Saul Dibb (The Duchess) and his team cre­ated a pur­pose built set in a stu­dio in Wales and took ad­van­tage of one English farmer’s unique fix­ture.

‘‘There’s a guy in Ip­swich, East An­glia, who has a per­ma­nent set of trenches in his fields,’’ Jones says on the phone from the United King­dom. ‘‘I think that’s a very wise move, given how of­ten dra­mas take place in trenches or need a trench. It’s not an ex­ten­sive net­work, but cer­tainly enough to film a film like this.

‘‘For the in­ter­nals, we had this amaz­ing war­ren of a set. It was just fan­tas­tic, when you are play­ing a thing like this, to be able to dis­ap­pear into a sort of cave-like world. It re­ally helps the imag­i­na­tion be­cause it’s not three-sided, it’s lit­er­ally four­sided – you are com­pletely sur­rounded.’’

As a late ar­rival to the shoot, Jones missed out on a WWI ‘‘boot camp’’ with his­to­rian Sir An­thony Sel­don, how­ever, he be­lieves that when­ever you are do­ing a war film of any kind there is a ‘‘cer­tain amount of drill to be learned. Even in Dad’s Army [Jones played Cap­tain Main­war­ing in the 2016 bigscreen ver­sion of the beloved British sit­com] that was the case, be­cause the drama [or com­edy] lies in the break­ing down of or­der.’’

But while struck by the set­ting and the play’s sense of claus­tro­pho­bia and ago­ra­pho­bia, Jones says there was such a sense of team spirit among the act­ing en­sem­ble (that also in­cluded Paul Bet­tany, Asa But­ter­field and Sam Claflin) that he was able to avoid tak­ing home any emo­tional bag­gage from the role.

‘‘There was a sense of pro­tect­ing each other. Where you have more trou­ble re­triev­ing your day-to-day life is when you’re the only char­ac­ter in a lead role. When you’re be­ing sub­merged in a fic­tional re­al­ity for weeks and weeks, it usu­ally takes a cou­ple of days to re­cover. Here, the struc­ture was such

Toby Jones im­mersed him­self in the role as C Com­pany chef Ma­son.

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