The Duchess Theatre, September 26 - December 15
Author: Jonathan Lewis
Director: David Grindley
Cast: Cian Barry, Jolyon Coy, Arthur Darvill, Laurence Fox, Matthew Lewis, Lewis Reeves
Unless you’re buying into the current wave of uncritical love for our armed forces, probably the main reason to see this production is that producer James Seabright has assembled a stage full of our hottest young TV stars who play soldiers in various states of undress on a military hospital ward. Their laddy behaviour is laugh-out-loud funny before it strikes them that in signing up for the army they’ve joined a profession involving mindless obedience, risk of injury and bleak future job future prospects; something you’d have thought they might have figured out in the recruitment office.
It’s all pretty formulaic. As you expect there’s a posh soldier: Jolyon Coy as a prospective officer enduring piles and second thoughts, a jack-the-lad type: Laurence Fox (from TV’s Lewis and marriage to Billy Piper) an Irish one: Cian Barry (with enough chips on his shoulders to supply Harry Ramsden) A shifty one: Arthur Darvil (from TV’s Dr Who), a stupid one: Matthew Lewis (from the Harry Potter films) and a damaged one: Lewis Reeves, endearingly and temporarily brain-damaged.
The play was inspired by the writer getting to know the lower ranks during a spell in hospital and what little plot there is involves them warming to him as he discovers they’re all right really. It’s all set during the army’s heavy presence in Northern Ireland, which gives it a period feel and saps it of immediate relevance.
The gang act this all very well and are completely convincing as a group of mates, however the evening offers little beyond that. I suspect army personnel will love it but I’m not sure they venture to the West End much. Serious theatre goers may hanker for a little more substance and insight however Harry Potter and Lewis fans will have a blast.
VERDICT: **** (Four Stars) A very funny and well executed production of a formulaic play.
Photography: Geraint Lewis