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A play written by R.C. Sherriff and first performed in 1928, it tells the story of a group of middle-ranked members of the British army. The overall premise is "War is both unpleasant and unnecessary." However, it is shot through with a vein of dark humour, particularly from Mason and Trotter, making it ring much truer than many of its doom-and-gloom imitators.
The main characters are:
- Capt. Dennis Stanhope, the Shell Shocked Senior (a rather tragic example, he's in his early 20s). He drinks heavily to deal with the war but won't take any time off because of a sense of duty and a fear that everyone he knows at home, including his fiancée, will find out what he's become.
- Lt. Osborne, Stanhope's fatherly second in command
- Second Lt. Jimmy Raleigh, Stanhope's old schoolfriend and future brother-in-law
- Second Lt. Trotter, the token working-class officer
- Second Lt. Hibbert, an officer who's as traumatised as Stanhope. He hopes to get home by faking illness.
- Pvt. Mason, the officers' unnamed Deadpan Snarker chef.
Five film adaptations have been released:
- The first was an Anglo-American co-production released in 1930, only a few days before the original All Quiet on the Western Front adaptation premiered.
- The second, an obscure German production titled The Other Side (Die andere Seite), was released one year later.
- The third, 1976′s Aces High, which replaced the setting from the trenches to aerial warfare.
- The fourth was a 1988 made-for-TV BBC movie.
- And the most recent adaptation, released around 2017-18.
This play includes these tropes:
- The Alcoholic: Stanhope. The first thing we ever hear about him is that he's "drinking like a fish".
- Anti-Hero: Stanhope.
- Big Brother Mentor: Raleigh regards Stanhope as this.
- Big Eater: Trotter
- Broken Pedestal: Stanhope is afraid to turn out as one for Raleigh.
- Chef of Iron: Mason
- Deadpan Snarker: Mason as well. The German soldier they capture has a few clever lines making fun of their attempts to speak German.
- A Father to His Men: Osbourne is called "uncle" by most of the other officers. Stanhope is a subversion, he comforts Hibbert but still has Kick the Dog moments.
- Also subverted when Stanhope rages at Raleigh for "feeding with the men".
- Five-Man Band. Could be viewed as a partial Deconstruction since The Hero is flawed and often bullying, The Smart Guy is using his brains to try and leave the team, not help it, and The Chick has his naivete brutally crushed
- Good Looking Privates: Raleigh, according to the dialogue
- Stanhope too, even more so than Raleigh, if we are to believe the script.
- Hopeless War: Most of the main characters feel that the war is ultimately pointless.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Stanhope could qualify to be one, but it's caused by the war.
- Kick the Dog: Stanhope to Raleigh and Hibbert.
- Nepotism: Strongly implied to be the way Raleigh got into Stanhope's company.
- The Obi-Wan: One can view Osbourne in this light
- Officer and a Gentleman: Stanhope and Osbourne, to a degree.
- Sad Clown: Hardy and Hibbert. Everyone is trying to be one in the meal scene (except for Raleigh who can't bring himself to).
- War Is Hell: And the officers have it relatively easy.
- World War One: Naturally