He ended up spending time in a military hospital instead, sharing a bay with a handful of squaddies and, as a Potential Officer, very much the outsider.
The shadow of the Northern Ireland conflict looms large – Lewis Reeves’ Ian, drooling and barely able to talk, is confined to a wheelchair after sustaining a head wound; Laurence Fox’s apparently on the mend Joe (referred to as the “Battersea Boner”) is a victim of the IRA bombing in Hyde Park whose anger suddenly explodes.
But there’s also Cian Barry’s frustrated Irish Keith, fobbed off with a psychosomatic diagnosis of the unexplained paralysis creeping up his leg, Matthew Lewis’s Mick suffering the indignity of a late circumcision and Arthur Darvill’s career soldier Parry, petrified of what – if anything – the future holds for him if he’s deemed physically unfit to return to the army.
Lewis has done an excellent job of capturing the camaraderie, the banter, the bravado and the vulnerability – as well as the intermittent rage- of these young men who have served their country.
There are a couple of very funny set pieces – including a game of Russian roulette, Deer Hunter style, involving well-shaken cans of beer illicitly smuggled onto the ward.
And although stronger on character and dialogue than on plot, David Grindley’s richly-deserved revival (with Jolyon Coy as Potential Office Menzies trying but failing to be accepted) proves well worth catching.
Duchess, Catherine Street, WC2B 5LA
Tube | Covent Garden/ Charing Cross
Until 15th December