PVT Wars looks at three disparate young Vietnam veterans, recovering from service. Natwick is a privileged, educated New Yorker, Silvio a pumped up Italian American and Gately a mid-western, innocent farmboy. All have shattered nerves. Gately's obsessed with fixing a radio, Natwick's neurotic and Silvio's compulsive about flashing the nurses. Unfortunately, he's had his genitals blown off.
United by their shared experience the inmates pass the time by turns goading and entertaining each other, protected and terrified by the knowledge that they could leave at any time. No longer fit for the theatre of war, they're also unfit to return to their civilian lives and cling to the tragic limbo land of army hospital.
That said, this play is funny. Each of the men tells their story and reveals the sad truth about their situation yet their army camaraderie is a playful mix of oneupmanship, pranks, shifting alliances and an underlying tenderness. The damage that war does to all involved is familiar subject matter but that makes it no less relevant or moving.
David Newman as Gately is outstanding throughout, giving us country boy innocence without ever straying into Forrest Gump. His wingmen struggle with maintaining accents yet also give spirited and believable performances. The production could easily ditch the shadow war play behind the screens. There's plenty going on in the script to keep the horrors of combat louring over the action. But small criticism. PVT Wars romps along, entertaining, amusing and moving.
PVT Wars is at The Rosemary Branch Theatre, 22 Shepperton Road, Islington N1 3DT, Tues-Sun until 22 August at 7.30pm. Tickets £8.
Read about The Rosemary Branch Theatre in Fringe Benefits.