Fintry Amateur Dramatic Society (FADS) enthralled sell-out audiences with their latest poignant performance. World War One drama “Journey’s End”was declared a“triumph”by those lucky enough to attend the production, which was four years in the preparation. Among the audience was Balfron resident and historian Jim Thomson, who was inspired to write this glowing review, touched as many were by the quality, atmosphere and emotion of the show.
As we approach the centenary of the end of World War I culminating in the armistice of November 11, 1918 it is hard to think of a more fitting tribute than the recent production of R C Sherriff’s 1928 Great War drama “Journey’s End” performed by Fintry Amateur Dramatic Society.
Set in the barn of Glenside Farm, near Fintry, the whole tableau had the air of a film set.
The “pre-show” began outside with a variety of scenarios of the time from the shell-shocked soldier to the suffragettes. Members of the audience were even encouraged to enlist on pain of receiving a white feather from the women. Georgian children plied the crowd with newspapers that turned out to be the show’s programmes.
Only when the audience reentered the barn auditorium did they see for the first time the astonishing set.
“Attention to detail” was a phrase used over and over again. Corrugated iron, oil lamps and candles gave the set absolute authenticity – the suspended oil lamps shaking at every subsequent artillery blast.
Director Jonny North opened the play with a scene that was casual bordering on mundane except for the explosions that peppered the dialogue.
Captain Stanhope adeptly portrayed by Josh Frazer was described as the “best company commander we’ve got” in the first scene. We had already discovered that he has turned to drink to alleviate the stresses of the war and his command.
The arrival of Stuart Rankin’s naive, hero-worshipping 2nd Lieutenant Raleigh from his time at school with Stanhope merely added pressure to the captain’s downward spiral.
There was a kind of Shakespearean comedy relief in the antics of Jack Doyle’s 2nd Lieutenant Trotter and Paul Anderson’s hapless cook Private Mason as the search for “a bit of lean” in the bacon and the yellow taste of the soup seemed to bear equal weight against the orders of a foolhardy raid on enemy lines.
A particularly poignant circumstance occurred on the Thursday of the show’s run which coincided with the 100th anniversary to the day of the death of the director’s grandfather, Captain A G North, who served and died in France, earning a posthumous Victoria Cross. This was made even more touching by the fact that his swagger stick was used as an actual prop in the play.
Josh Frazer’s outstanding scene occurred when Stanhope’s old school chum, whom he had dealt with in such an offhand manner, was injured by a shell in a raid and despite comforting him, young Raleigh dies in his arms.
As with its beginning, the blood-red finale of the play was not the end of the event.
On the hillside outside the barn a hundred crosses were illuminated as the audience returned to their cars. This was a stunning piece of theatre both inside and outwith the auditorium and the four years of preparation put into it by Fintry Amateur Dramatic Society more than paid off.
It is something that will live in the memory in this significant year and for a long time after.
Poignant Captain Stanhope (Josh Frazer) comforts his dying schoolmate