Our Boys exquisitely showcases life on the battlefield from the setting of an army hospital. Five rowdy soldiers are recovering from injuries on a ward when they find, to much dismay, that an officer is due to occupy the empty bed. This updated version of Jonathan Lewis’ play provides, under his direction, an immense and emotional montage of army life. The work is, in fact, based upon Lewis’ own experiences as an army scholar.
Stirring and haunting, Our Boys is not to be missed.
It speaks volumes about the quality of Lewis’ writing that his play transitions seamlessly from 1984 to 2010. Aside from its debates on life as a soldier, the themes of masculinity seem highly relevant to today’s discussions. Lewis portrays male friendship at multiple levels. The lads tease each other with boisterous joviality, but when one of them has nightmare, he is comforted like a baby brother. Contrast can also be found in the constant changes of mood which prove sudden and striking. Fun turns to fury in seconds, reminiscent of the unexpected dangers that these characters have learned to expect. Despite this, the conversations remain completely naturalistic and span all manner of subjects including impotence, bed-wetting and general disillusionment with the army.
All six actors share the stage together with brilliant chemistry or friction, depending on what the scene demands. Michael Larcombe as Ian, a paralysed soldier, is particuarly impressive. His close attention to speech and movement allows for Ian’s condition to be visually traced by the audience. As the officer, Nick Holden-Steenstra holds a marked detachment throughout the performance to emphasise the class divide present between him and the others on the ward.
Lewis’ powerful production allows for heart-breaking poignancy to bleed through the bravado. The wounds and wheelchairs show physical injury, but the men are also in recovery from something far more psychological. Stirring and haunting, Our Boys is not to be missed.