Portraying a young soldier in the wartime play Journey's End, Richard Gaves is showing both the tragedy and comedy of conflict, he tells Steve Pratt.

ACTOR Richard Glaves has never appeared at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in his home town of Scarborough - unless you count working front of house as a student. And his current tour of duty with the First World War play Journey's End won't be taking him to the theatre run by Alan Ayckbourn, although he's already played close to home.

His parents, who still live in the North Yorkshire seaside town, saw him when the tour opened in Newcastle in September. It's since played in Darlington and is currently in York.

His acting career began in Scarborough, where he attended Scalby School, after he joined the town's Youth Theatre at the age of 12. Appearing in school plays and with the YMCA stage group fostered his interest, leading him to go on to train at Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

"No-one else in the family was involved in acting. But they were very supportive," says Glaves.

He'll have spent ten months on the road by the time the Journey's End tour finishes in June, broken only by a short season of the play in London's West End last Christmas.

"It's a challenge to keep it fresh and all the rest of it, and keep it in the same state it was when we started the tour. That's one of the challenges of being an actor," says Glaves, who's in his mid-20s.

In the 75th anniversary production of R C Sherriff's drama, he plays Raleigh, a fresh-faced 18-year-old who arrives in the trenches during the First World War straight from public school.

"He knows the company he's going to is commanded by his hero from school, Stanhope. He's excited about that because he worships the ground he walks on. What he doesn't know is that Stanhope has become an alcoholic," he explains.

He hadn't seen the play before, coming to it completely fresh. "We did some research. There were lots of books and photographs in the rehearsal room that we could reference," he says.

"And Max Arthur, the author of Forgotten Heroes Of The First World War, came to talk to us about life in the trenches and what it would have been like."

The play, he points out, does have a surprising number of laughs in it because "it's one of the ways the characters are able to cope with the situation that they are in".

He's been to war as an actor before, in a production of The Accrington Pals at Chichester Minerva Theatre. He spends a lot of his time in period costume. York audiences saw him last year as the young poet besotted by a minister's wife in a revival of George Bernard Shaw's Candida.

"I had a really good time with that and audiences seemed to really respond," he recalls.

He also appeared in three productions - Twelfth Night, Richard II and Edward II - at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London. "That was all in Elizabethan costume and dresses and corsets, a fantastic experience," he says of the all-male Twelfth Night, which toured to the US.

"We took our own stage and didn't perform in conventional theatres but with the audience on three sides of the acting area. In Los Angeles, we played on the UCLA campus, then underneath a car park in Pittsburg, and in Chicago in a theatre very much like The Swan at Stratford-upon-Avon."

The Bard has played a big role in his career so far. His first job out of drama school was in A Midsummer Night's Dream in a staging in Germany.

As yet he hasn't done any TV or film work. "I didn't have any particular ambitions when I left drama school," he says. "I just wanted to work, do good work and find the things I was doing rewarding and hopefully lead on to other things."

* Journey's End is at York Grand Opera House until Saturday. Tickets 0870 6063595.