Students have to choose one question to answer from a choice of three. The first of the three choices will always be extract-based. The extract is usually one to one and a half pages in length with the questions focusing directly on the extract (referring to ‘this moment’ or ‘this extract’, or using the word ‘here’). These questions do require an understanding of the whole text, but close attention to the printed extract is the key requirement for successful answers. At least one task will focus on a broader topic than the extract-based question. Questions often ask for a response to a character or a relationship, but not just as a neutral character study where you show what you think of the character and why, but more as a weighing up of what the character adds to the impact of the play. The Drama texts are the only area of the specification which can offer an empathic/re- creative task inviting students to write as one of the characters. Such questions will not necessarily be set, but they often appear as the third choice. Empathic questions are a popular and successful option for many candidates who enjoy the opportunity to think and feel as a character at a particular moment in the play rather than adopt the more conventional essay approaches.
Set in the trenches at Saint-Quentin, Aisne, in 1918 towards the end of the First World War, Journey's End gives a glimpse into the experiences of the officers of a British Army infantry company in World War I. The entire story plays out in the officers' dugout over four days from 18 March 1918 to 21 March 1918.
In the British trenches before St Quentin, Captain Hardy converses with Lieutenant Osborne, an older man and public school master, who has come to relieve him. Hardy jokes about the behaviour of Captain Stanhope, who has turned to alcohol in order to cope with the stress which the war has caused him. While Hardy jokes, Osborne defends Stanhope and describes him as "the best company commander we've got". Private Mason, a servant cook, is forever not caring about the lack of ingredients and quality of food he serves up. Second Lieutenant Trotter is a rotund soldier who likes his food; he can't stand the war and counts down each hour that he serves in the front line by drawing circles onto a piece of paper and then colouring them in. Second Lieutenant Raleigh is a young and naive officer who joins the company. Raleigh knew Stanhope from school where he was skipper at rugby and refers to him as Dennis. He admits that he requested to be sent to Stanhope's company. Osborne hints to him that Stanhope will not be the same person he knew from school as the experiences of war have changed him; however Raleigh does not seem to understand. Stanhope is angry that Raleigh has been allowed to join him and describes the boy as a hero-worshipper. As Stanhope is in a relationship with Raleigh's sister Madge, he is concerned that Raleigh will write home and inform his sister of Stanhope's drinking. Stanhope tells Osborne that he will censor Raleigh's letters so that this does not happen; Osborne does not approve. Stanhope has a keen sense of duty and feels that he must continue to serve rather than take leave to which he is entitled. He criticises another soldier, Second Lieutenant Hibbert, who he thinks is faking neuralgia so that he can be sent home instead of continuing fighting. Osborne puts a tired and somewhat drunk Stanhope to bed. Stanhope (and the other officers) refers to Osborne as 'Uncle'. Act II
Trotter and Mason converse about the bacon rashers which the company has to eat. Trotter talks about how the start of spring makes him feel youthful; he also talks about the hollyhocks which he has planted. These conversations are a way of escaping the trenches and the reality of the war. Osborne and Raleigh discuss how slowly time passes at the front, and the fact that both of them played rugby before the war...