I did resolve to use this blog for more reviews, so here goes…
Our Boys by Jonathan Lewis
I went to see this as a Birthday outing for a friend who is rather fond of Lawrence Fox, as it happened this play also had Arthur Darvill of Dr Who fame and Matthew Lewis of Harry Potter fame. I was expecting death by fangirls at the theatre but luckily they behaved themselves.
It’s also a worry with a group of young-ish actors, known for tv/film and with less theatre experience that carrying a West End play could fall flat. Not one of the cast dropped the ball at all, there was a real sense of an ensemble cast but with each getting their moment to stand out. Of the three ‘known’ actors Matthew Lewis gets least to work with, as the solider in for an adult circumcision he is very much posited as a comic relief character (not that the others don’t have riotously funny roles) with simply less ‘meaty’ scenes it could seem he isn’t as strong but actually he brings a roundness to the role where it could be easy simply to rely solely on the humour.
Arthur Darvill’s character is a great role for any actor and it gives him chance to show off comedic skills his television work have hidden as well as illustrating his abilities as an actor. Lawrence Fox was funny and charismatic as the ‘Battersea Boner’ (work it out…) while also treating those inclined to several scenes in his pants…
What is interesting about this play, as plays about Soldiers are very much ‘in’ at the moment is to see an example of one from another conflict. In 1984 the men depicted have served in Northern Ireland and have colleagues in the Falklands (though none of those depicted have served there). That’s not to say that we don’t need plays about the current conflicts and difficulties of our soldiers, we do, we also need the dramas about the First and Second World Wars-like Journey’s End or Private Peaceful to name two fairly recent revivals But it feels like the period these men are from-the space in between almost-isn’t as much a part of our cultural and particularly theatrical dialogue. And it really should be.
As Joe, played by Lawrence Fox, finally reveals the real reasons he has been in the hospital so long and depicts in detail the events of the Hyde Park bombing that caused him the injuries the audience unravels all that went before in the play and comes to understand a great deal more about Joe.
Perhaps the reason we don’t hear as much from the era of Northern Ireland and the Falklands is the inherent and unresolved politics of it all. What this play does, and what any effective play about the human cost of conflict does, is strip away the politics. The men don’t tell us if they agree or disagree with the conflicts, in the hospital they are just a group of lads trying to recover-some with wounds worse than others.
An interesting play from my perspective as someone who is writing about plays from the 1980s/early 1990s being revived, this play ages well. The only refernece that has is more to do with unfortunate timing-the script has two Jimmy Savillie references (one use of ‘Jim’ll fix it’ and one ‘impersonation’) which understandably fell a little flat this weekend. Do I think they should be taken out? no. They are relevant and real references that fit the characters at the time, to take them out does a disservice to the playwright’s intent, what will happen naturally through audience response and actor savvy is that the nature of those references will change to reflect new circumstances. Just as the circumstances of the solider’s in the play take on new significance and meaning to today’s audience in contrast to those who first saw it.