Review Round-up: What did critics think of Our Boys?
The play gives a funny yet candid account of the tedium, terror and tribulations suffered by five young soldiers recovering from injuries incurred in the line of duty.
Directed by David Grindley, Our Boys runs at the Duchess Theatre until 15 December.
Justice at last for Jonathan Lewis’ play…storms the West End in a brilliantly cast and superbly acted revival by David Grindley…trooper Joe…is played with an impressive mixture of physical authority and psychotic danger by Laurence Fox. Fox has me slightly foxed. I can’t decide if his strange, roof-of-the-mouth West Country accent is caused by the character’s shell shock in Hyde Park or the actor’s self-conscious research. Still, it’s a very fine and charismatic performance…The play ends on Joe’s startling descriptive speech about that incongruous bandstand atrocity, while one can only wince at the thought of what happened to Arthur Darvill’s jumpy East End fusilier Parry, deprived of eight toes and the only job he ever wanted…
…Director David Grindley coaxes a terrific sense of edgy camaraderie and snappy loyalty from the group, who handle with sensitivity the men’s growing awareness that, outside Army life, a highly uncertain future awaits. There’s a delightful parody of a scene from The Deer Hunter via a game called The Beer Hunter; it’s astonishing how funny it is to watch actors repeatedly cover each other with the contents of shaken-up lager cans. All six performers are a pleasure to watch. Darvill and Lewis whizz about in wheelchairs, the former’s character as canny as the latter’s is gullible. Fox has a cool command of the stage and a cherishable line in dry wit, but Coy calls Joe’s bluff through Menzies’ quiet dignity. Lewis Reeves makes fine work of Ian, horribly crippled and struggling to learn to speak again.
…Jonathan Lewis's sharp, robustly funny 1993 play is fired by principled indignation at the shabby way those who suffer for our security can find themselves treated and it is spiritedly revived by director David Grindley…The crude banter, the bickering and the jokey wind-ups as this group kill time are performed with a terrific spiky verve by a crack cast…The production negotiates the sudden switches of mood (from the uproarious to the melancholy) with aplomb; there's sensitivity in the punchy performances; and the play makes its case all the more powerfully for never becoming preachy or programmatic.
…on a West End stage, it lacks the story to sustain its two hours plus. Having stuck these characters together, Lewis doesn’t do much with them. And when a plot of sorts kicks in halfway through…the play still dawdles. David Grindley’s production is neatly played without threatening to leave its comfort zone…When violence erupts towards the end, the mood hasn’t been there to make it feel like the bursting of the dam. The trouble is, a few brooding silences notwithstanding, Lewis’s play operates on the surface. It has little subtext; little for the actors to find for themselves…There are acute moments and telling details. But the show lacks the inner mechanisms to be as funny or affecting as it needs to be.