Back to theatre: Our Boys

The revival of Jonathan Lewis's play Our Boys at the Duchess Theatre poses some interesting questions about what happens to people who chose a career in the army. Given the events this week involving murder-suicide of an IRA bomb survivor, it also seemed unintentionally topical. The play is based on Lewis's own experiences although the subject matter is more about hospital treatments for pilonidal sinus than the military's role in Northern Island. But since this condition was also nicknamed "Jeep seat", it provides insight into a lesser known aspect of army life.

This play is set in a London hospital ward in 1984 and is a largely funny and episodic account of a group of wounded squaddies who find themselves passing time while they recuperate together. This premise is a fertile ground for penis jokes, masturbation, sex dolls, and a healthy discussion about circumcision. Best of all is a restaging of the Russian Roulette scenes from The Deer Hunter where beer cans shaken up are subsituted for guns.

Naturally with such a blokey atmosphere it is an all male cast that includes Cian Barry, Jolyon Coy, Arthur Darvill, Matthew Lewis and Laurence Fox. They all have appeared on television in shows such as The Bill, Casualty and Foyles War and it gives the production and healthy injection of star quality. And with all of the sex talk throughout the show you can just imagine every night by stage door a swarm of young ladies with autograph books just waiting to pounce. But the actors do not just look pretty, they work well together as an ensemble and give the show such style that it is easy to overlook wondering what was the point of it all and just enjoy the banter.


It is also helped by a wonderful production design that expertly recreates hospital ward that could have easily been ripped out of the deepest darkest bowels of the Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital. It is stylised grim that feels almost too authentic so you cannot help but sympathise for the lads living in a time when smuggled cans of beer or a vcr and a beat up television passed for entertainment.

The play attempts to show how there are some basic human needs and desires from all these men, even those in uniform, but perhaps the laughs and the good looks of the cast might prevent everyone from bothering to get into that much analysis. But it's a good night out anyway. There are £10 day seats for this show during its limited 12 week engagement and £20 standby concessions. Look out for discounts at the other usual outlets as well.

Of course as it was opening night the Duchess Theatre was packed with celebrities including David Tennant, Matt Smith and Billie Piper. What was happening in the stalls was just as much a distraction as on stage...

And now for a Squaddieboo with Johnnyfoxlondon... It's not the only military-themed play on in London at the moment but I was just happy to have a night out...


listen to ‘Squaddieboo: Our Boys’ on Audioboo




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