Some eye-catching celebrity casting for these two American five-finger exercises will undoubtedly attract audiences from outside the King's Head's usual Islington catchment area. Lone Star and PVT Wars, a short 1979 comic double bill about the aftershocks of the Vietnam experience, play out in the tradition of Catch 22, M*A*S*H , and One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.
In the first, set entirely on the back porch of a bar, a Texan local hero discovers life in his one horse town has moved on while he has been in Vietnam. In the second, three damaged soldiers from very different backgrounds while away the hours on the terrace of a military hospital.
The performances mark the stage debut of James Jagger – son of Mick and Jerry Hall – who plays alongside household name Shane Richie. Jagger, who looks like his dad with a dash of a young Donald Sutherland thrown in, has the chops to become a major star if he decides to continue with acting. Playing a slow-boat Texan yokel and a fey, damaged, Long Island rich kid gives Jagger a chance to show a range and ability which would be impressive in any 22-year-old actor.
Richie and the third actor in the cast, William Meredith, are also extremely good. Richie excels in the second play as psychotic New York street tough Silvio driven to comic lunacy by a shrapnel wound, but struggles to find the good ol'boy menace which the part of Roy in Lone Star demands, occasionally breaking into a series of twitches and double takes alarmingly reminiscent of Michael Barrymore's stage schtick.
In the light of the horrific fiasco in Iraq, James McLure's Vietnam plays – described as a comic double bill – feel oddly innocent and redemptive. McLure seems to suggest that for - American - soldiers damaged by war, life and hope can prevail with the help of love and comradeship. The plays, well directed by Henry Mason, are funny, warm and darkly whimsical. But they also feel too slight and too parochial to be especially relevant in addressing the ghastly human fall-out from America's current military adventurism.