Set in a bullet-ridden, rubble-filled compound in Helmand Province, DC Moore’s new play (his second) is funny, compassionate, questioning and boasts a superb performance from Joe Armstrong as Gary, a foul-mouthed yet ultimately sympathetic corporal guarding injured prisoner, Zia, who has an unexpected – and possibly unbelievable – story to tell.
He isn’t, he insists, a Taliban insurgent but a kidnapped holiday maker from East London.
Sweating in the intolerable heat and with his best mate lying seriously injured offstage, Gary’s patience is wearing thin in an alien country where the threat of attack is never far away.
With him is Josef Altin’s Hafizullah, a gentle young Afghani soldier getting stoned on a spliff, who has already seen more than enough of war to make him sick of the whole business.
And in charge is “posh” commanding officer Simon, increasingly calling on knowledge gleaned from training courses back home to keep control of a situation likely to implode at any moment.
Moore hasn’t quite got control of his plot, but he writes cracking dialogue which (with Bob Bailey’s dust-filled design and strong performances all round in Mike Bradwell’s excellent production) pull you right into the sweaty tension of a desert war zone where moments of calm are to be savoured and both class and race still matter.
Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS, (020 7565 5000) until 1st May (£10-£15)