The buzz surrounding current West End production, Our Boys is hardly surprising. Of the six cast members, one is a Potter film alumnus (Matthew Lewis), another, an ex-Doctor Who companion (Arthur Darvill) and a third, the lead in a prime-time ITV drama as well as the husband of an ex-Doctor Who companion (Laurence Fox). Whilst this is surely an appealing factor for a vast number of the audience members, myself included, it certainly doesn’t distract away from the performances in this comic and yet simultaneously tragic play.
Set in 1980s Britain, the play depicts the monotonous lives of six young soldiers recovering in an army hospital after being injured during the line of duty. ‘Killing nothing but time’, the men fill their days with banter, pranks and mutual bullying. This boring but easy state of play is interrupted by the arrival of a potential candidate for officer (Jolyon Coy), causing a gradual collapse of the precariously balanced friendship between the men.
The performances in the play are, generally, pretty great. Despite an understudy standing in for Arthur Darvill on the night I attended, the chemistry between the actors was still very much apparent. The balance between the comedy and the darker elements was just right, allowing for hysterics one moment and shocked silence in the next. A particularly amusing highlight, and one which resonates through the rest of the play, was the re-enactment of the Russian roulette scene from Deer Hunter, although this time involving much shaking of beers cans. Whilst all the actors pulled off the lighter moments with ease, particularly Matthew Lewis whose portrayal of a young man unlucky in love was matched awkwardly by his particular ‘injury’, as the stakes heightened not all managed to reach the heights of Cian Barry, whose performance of the broody, and often angry, Keith certainly shone through at all the right moments.
Although the play is very entertaining and certainly worth catching, its closing moments don’t quite manage to hit the emotional low that I felt it had been building up to so successfully through the rest of the play. Based on the true experiences of playwright Jonathon Lewis, the play 1993 play certainly still resonates with an audience of today and in light of current conflicts and soldier causalities, is a topic that desperately needs to be kept at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
Our Boys is running for a limited period until the 15th December at the Duchess Theatre, London. Tickets can be purchased here. The cast is Cian Barry, Jolyon Coy, Arthur Darvill, Laurence Fox, Matthew Lewis and Lewis Reeves.