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The Independent Culture
Few playwrights have been forced to spend two weeks in an army hospital in Woolwich. At the age of just 15, Jonathan Lewis committed himself to the army by accepting a scholarship which paid his way through school and university. He then found himself committed to officer training but wanting to take up the offer of a place at drama school. After much soul-searching, he was persuaded to go to Sandhurst as the army "would give me experience of life that would help me as an actor."

The weekend before he started he was diagnosed as needing surgery which put him in hospital and on extended sick leave, during which he secretly went to Guildhall.

"The stay in army hospital changed my life. Until then I'd only seen the golden side of the army. Here were men who had fallen down the plughole and no one gave a damn. It's bad for morale to have wounded men on display, unless it's for publicity purposes."

The experience is revisited, but considerably refashioned, (and, says Lewis, toned down... real life being too implausible) in his award-winning play Our Boys (with Ian Dunn, above), which is being revived after its huge success in 1993 with most of the original cast who beat Theatre de Complicite to a best ensemble award. After 11 months acting in An Inspector Calls in the West End, Lewis is relieved to be directing again. He's also developing his next play at the National Theatre studio. Perhaps all that discipline is paying off.

`Our Boys' is at the Donmar, WC2 from 11 Apr (0171-369 1732)

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