Colin Clive as Stanhope (left) in the Savoy Theatre production of Journey’s End, c.1929 (SHC ref ESR/19/2/6/5; photograph by The Stage Photo Co.)

Colin Clive as Stanhope (left) in the Savoy Theatre production of Journey’s End, c.1929 (SHC ref ESR/19/2/6/5; photograph by The Stage Photo Co.)

The Incorporated Stage Society produced Journey’s End at the Apollo Theatre in London on 9 and 10 December 1928, with a young Laurence Olivier in the role of Stanhope. The critics responded enthusiastically and Maurice Browne stepped forward to be the play’s producer for a West End stint. It opened at the Savoy Theatre on 21 January 1929 and soon became a worldwide success.

Scene from a Japanese production of Journey’s End, 1930 (SHC ref 2332/6/3/14/6)

Scene from a Japanese production of Journey’s End, 1930
(SHC ref 2332/6/3/14/6)

Fan mail reveals how the play’s realism struck a strong chord with many people, including exservicemen like Captain J H Bray of Lodsworth, West Sussex. In his letter to Sherriff he mentioned being moved by its authenticity when he listened to a BBC radio version broadcast on Armistice Day 1929. “It was all so vivid and true. The emotions natural to human nature so faithfully portrayed”. The play was staged across the globe, including the USA, Europe (even Germany) and exotic locations such as Japan, which is reflected in surviving photographs and programmes. The resulting commercial success allowed Sherriff to leave his job as an insurance official and launch a career as a professional writer. In 1930 he bought “Rosebriars”, the house in Esher which would be his home until his death.

Download a pdf (PDF) copy of the original exhibition panel.

Click on the links below to see the exhibition text and images:

To Journey’s End and Beyond: The Exhibition

The Man Behind Journey’s End

R C Sherriff’s Family Background

Sherriff and Kingston Grammar School

Sherriff and the Artists Rifles

Sherriff with the 9th East Surreys

The Genesis of Journey’s End

The Making of a Playwright

The 1930s: Sherriff’s Golden Decade

Man of Letters: Sherriff’s Later Career

The Curtain Comes Down