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Review: Our Boys

Duchess Theatre, London WC2

    An all-male cast comprised of six TV and film actors has breathed new life into Jonathan Lewis's cracking 1993 play about British soldiers. Set in ward 9, bay 4 of a Woolwich military hospital in 1984, Lewis's play reveals the humanity that lies beneath all that filthy (and very funny) banter and aggression.

    The background conflict here is Northern Ireland and the odd one out is new arrival Potential Officer Menzies (Jolyon Coy), a character which the author based on himself and whose middle-class, Jewish background represents a chasm that has to be crossed before Menzies can win the respect of his fellow patients. It doesn't help that he's in for an embarrassing operation on his bottom.

    But this is a very much an ensemble piece with no dominating character. Nor is there much of a plot. Rather the objective, superbly achieved thanks to David Grindley's wonderfully performed production, is to humanise the soldier stereotype and reveal the sense of betrayal many in the army feel when their usefulness has been used up. Well, no dominant character except perhaps Regent's Park IRA bomb victim Joe, played by Laurence Fox, who gives possibly the best performances of the year as deeply damaged man whose mental scars only gradually emerge. (Tickets: 020 7492 1548)

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