Lone Star & PVT Wars

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The Independent Culture

A tangle of military netting and three pairs of underpants with the actors' names felt-tipped on the crotch currently festoon the façade of the King's Head Theatre in Islington, north London, where James Jagger, the 22-year-old son of Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall, is making his stage debut.

His mother famously bared all in the West End version of The Graduate. Don't, however, let the sight of those undies fool you into thinking that Jagger is continuing the family tradition and that there are privates on parade in this comic double-bill of plays about Vietnam veterans.

There is some rear-view flashing by a character, who lost his manhood in the war. But what Jagger reveals, apart from his father's lips and his mother's natural charm, is a real talent for deft comic timing, lightness of touch, and a very appealing stage presence.

With even George Bush now drawing parallels between Iraq and Vietnam, you can see why the King's Head has thought it timely to revive James McLure's two one-act three-handers from 1979.

Recent plays, such as Simon Stephens' Motortown and Roy Williams' Days of Significance, have presented the difficulties of adjusting to civilian life after serving in Basra with a deep intensity of purpose. But McLure has no qualms about offsetting the seriousness of the subject with a wacky, off-the-wall manner. This mood is spiritedly sustained in Henry Mason's buoyant, expertly acted and highly amusing production.

Set in the backyard of a Texan bar, Lone Star is like a Sam Shepard play with broader gags. For Shane Richie's hilariously superannuated stud Roy, his 1959 Thunderbird convertible is the symbol of his youth, but his attempts (post-Vietnam) to reassert himself as cock of the walk are foiled when the car is wrecked by a nerdy dimwit (a delightful Jagger) and when his brother (the excellent William Meredith) reveals that he's slept with his wife.

In Pvt Wars, Richie reappears as Silvio, an army hospital inmate whose obsession with sperm counts, exposure and kilts turns out to be compensation for the fact that the war has left him with nothing to flash.

Jagger brings a lovely droll drop-dead prissiness to the part of fellow-patient Natwick, a snooty rich kid from Long Island who deludedly thinks he's escaped his background.

Though their optimism now makes these pieces feel a bit soft-centred, their zany wit remains undated.

To 23 September (020-7226 1916)

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