by Jonathan Lewis.
Duchess Theatre Catherine Street WC2B 5LA To 15 December 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.45pm.
Audio-described 1 Dec 2.45pm.
Captioned 24 Nov 2.45pm.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 412 4659.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 October.
Hailing the unconquering heroes of conflict.
How near and how far. In 1993, when Jonathan Lewis’s play premiered, terrorism meant the IRA, war the Falklands or Balkans. Lewis’s casualties of conflict fetch-up in a hospital where limbs and other body parts slowly mend. Young men, in late teens or early twenties, joke and play roughly in wheelchair or bed, suspended in time as a future officer, Menzies, arrives – Lewis contriving that he messes-in with the men rather than take the usual officer route to a private room.
Humour mainly dominates the first act. Its culminating game, involving forbidden beer bottles, is a comic high-point, while heralding a darker tone. As the men repair physically their group loyalty is tested. It becomes clear the army not only conditions and demands, it can provide a shield against the chaos of civilian existence.
Following his First World War success with Journey’s End, director David Grindley carefully charts the individual characters and group dynamics here. Lewis Reeves’ Ian, hunched and inchoate in his wheelchair before his recovery, Arthur Darvill’s Parry, sharp in humour and anger from his wheelchair, or Matthew Lewis’s Mick, Parry’s fellow boy-racer before he develops a slower, serious side (his mental density destined to justify or kibosh his officer ambitions), are played with the energy of young men forcibly cooped-up, their shared forces experience played-out through individuality of character.
As with Cian Barry’s Orange-Man Keith (tactlessly called Irish by the potential officer). Barry expresses the withdrawn, anxious side of someone who can also be explosive in response.
It’s with the other two there might be more clarity. Seeing “a Rupert” is the men’s generic name for officers, it seems hard to cast a Jolyon as the toff-in-training. Jolyon Coy is suitably restrained and focused in showing someone wary of the men yet wanting to be accepted, but Lewis leaves his final decision only vaguely motivated.
Seen in jacket and tie, Laurence Fox’s Joe might seem the officer too, yet he has a different authority, based presumably in personality and sheer length of stay. Though the speech can be indistinct, this authority comes across loud and clear.
Keith: Cian Barry.
Potential Officer Menzies: Jolyon Coy.
Parry: Arthur Darvill.
Joe: Laurence Fox.
Mick: Matthew Lewis.
Ian: Lewis Reeves.
Director: David Grindley.
Designer: Jonathan Fensom.
Lighting: Jason Taylor.
Sound: Gregory Clarke.
Dialect coach: Majella Hurley.
Fight director: Tim Klotz.
Dramaturg: Miranda Foster.
Assistant director: Katherine Hare.