Autobiographical Basis of the Play “Our Boys’

Our Boys

This a two-act play which was written by actor Jonathan Guy Lewis, and the play has been credited under his nom de plume Jonathan Lewis. The play of this wonderful essay artist was first performed on 13th May 1993 in London. It was subsequently performed in Derby and at the Donmar Warehouse, London.

Our Boys was being revived in the West End in October 2012.

Roles and Names of Actors

Our Boys featured the following actors who created them in the first production;

  1. Parry; Perry Fenwick
  2. Joe; David Hounslow. Our Boys was revived at Derby Playhouse and Donmar Theatre in 1995, and Lloyd Owen took over.
  3. Potential Officer Menzies (POM); Matthew Radford. During the revival of the play in 1955, Marston Bloom took over from him.
  4. Ian; Jake Wood
  5. Keith; Sean Gilder
  6. Mick; Thomas Craig

Synopsis

This play was set in 1984 at Ward 9 Bay 4 of the Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital, Woolwich, London, England. It concerns five young soldiers, veterans of the troubles in the Hyde Park bombing and Northern Ireland is among them. They are killing nothing but time in a quiet ward of the Queen Elizabeth Military Hospital. They are doing this with games, bragging one-upmanship, television, pornography, and cynical humor as their only mental escape means.

The action started in spring 1984. Joe is a victim of the Hyde Park bomb who has been hospitalized for 18 months more than others. The play where he argues with Keith, a Northern Irish private who has leg pains, about agreeing that POM (a young potential officer who is a threatening authority figure) can move into the ward, freeing up a private room for a Major’s wife to get an operation.

After POM arrives, Joe goes for a rare night out, while Parry and Mick enter in wheelchairs from a neighboring ward. The group remaining discuss their diagnoses and injuries.

In the second scene, POM and Ian both talk in their sleep during vivid dreams; this keeps Keith awake. Joe returns claims to have slept with the Major’s wife in former POM’s private room. For scenes three and four, the group pores over correspondence magazines, using to try and find potential girlfriends and pen pals. Conspiring to create a fake reply to Mick, they make him think an exotic girlfriend is keen to meet him.

In scene five, POM and Keith discuss how Keith got his leg injury as doctors struggle to diagnose it accurately. Ian is presented with a birthday cake on a wrong day by the group. They later improvise ‘Beerhunter’ game, The Deer Hunter cult pun. With alcohol in the hospital being a breach of the strict military rules they live by, a scuffle makes Keith sustain an injury; the group is fearful of their actions and possible implications.

In act two, regardless of the group agreeing to stick to a story explaining the injuries sustained from their ‘beer game’ without referencing to alcohol involvement, the army know what truly happened, and the consequence is Parry being dismissed from the army. Keith’s illness remains a mystery as he continues to worry about his future, with doctors suggesting that his pain might be purely psychological.

While hospital authorities investigation concludes, one of the group betrays the others resulting in a violent argument. Joe lashes out since his power over the group is threatened.

The final scene happens two weeks later, a time when Joe is the only one left resident in the ward, POM restoring to his private room. He pays a visit and they both reminisce about how they wound up in hospital, spurring Joe on to talk for the first time regarding the terrorist incident from which he still suffers post-traumatic stress disorder.

Background Basis of the Play

Upon completing his university, Jonathan was an officer training at Sandhurst, being invalided out within days with a rare back injury. Instead of fast-tracking up the military hierarchy, he turned out in a soldiers’ hospital in Woolwich for a month; this gave him a unique insight into the young veterans’ mindset around him.

He later on implemented a plan B of becoming an actor after he was discharged from the army at 22, taking himself off to drama school. Military and drama kept coalescing upon landing a leading role in the Soldier Soldier television series, and in his work with RADA in Business, teaching top military brass communication skills.

The actor and writer, therefore, featured the army in his work Our Boys play and even in his latest play which addresses school system in the UK.

Lewis is famous for his award-winning Our Boys play in 1993, based on his own experience of having spent time in a military hospital following his invalidation out of the army.

In his formative years, the theatre and the arm were parallel interests for him. “They were the two things I only excelled in at school. Running the Combined Cadet Force at St Dunstan’s, I loved acting in school plays, the two are not unconnected. They both involve dressing up and putting on a show,” Jonathan quotes. You can read this theatre essay for more interesting thoughts on this play

 

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