Explosive from the off, a crutch is held as a gun. A group of young soldiers recover in rehab, clutching at dark humour and forbidden drinks to get by in this 1993 play updated for modern warfare. When Potential Officer Hope (referred to as POSH, Nick Howden-Steenstra) joins the dorm, he’s unwelcome. At first uncomfortable around their disabilities—most of the patients have been blown up by IEDs—he quickly settles in and joins the macabre jokes.
Once they’re a unit, loyalty means everything. Leader of the gang Joe (Declan Perring) is terrifying when betrayed, his cheeky grin snapping into a snarl. Ian (Michael Larcombe) has the furthest journey to recovery, almost unable to speak and move, trembling with frustration at what war has done to him. It’s a strong cast, performances nuanced in their anger.
Their language is military, all acronyms and instructions. In Jonathan Lewis’s script there are some subtle conversations around mental health not being taken as seriously as a missing limb, and however laddish the jokes, their dealing with each other is tender and sensitive. Class battles are layered and reveal the absurdity of having to decide on a future in the army aged 16 in order to afford an education.
Infantilised by rehab, a sense of survivor’s guilt lingers. The lack of proper medical attention to Keith (Christopher Alan Lowry) suggests that soldiers who are fallen but still breathing are forgotten rather than sufficiently supported. Having seen their friends in bits, their hope and potential seem to drip away. But through it all their camaraderie beams. In the army, it’s clear: you do it all for your mates, that’s the only way you get through.