A Thousand Yards, Southwark Playhouse, London

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The Independent Culture

In A N Zakarian's debut play, presented by the Feat Theatre company, Lucy (Susan Vidler) is a picture editor on a national newspaper. In finding the most vivid pictures from war zones, while keeping the most harrowing atrocities from the nation's breakfast tables, she has developed her own version of the Thousand Yard Stare, a Vietnam War term to describe the face of a shell-shocked veteran.

In A N Zakarian's debut play, presented by the Feat Theatre company, Lucy (Susan Vidler) is a picture editor on a national newspaper. In finding the most vivid pictures from war zones, while keeping the most harrowing atrocities from the nation's breakfast tables, she has developed her own version of the Thousand Yard Stare, a Vietnam War term to describe the face of a shell-shocked veteran.

Through her journey into a psychosomatic blindness, Lucy befriends a 17-year-old boy who is also consulting her therapist.Très millennial, I'm sure, but not a situation that springs naturally out of the drama. The dramatic cliché of the "unlikely friendship", however, is pulled off with warmth, Vidler's Lucy growing to truly delight in the boy - who insists upon being called Kid A (if it's a Radiohead allusion, it's never expanded on). Kid A is invested by Gerard Kearns with a preternatural prescience and touching earnestness on top of his morbid fear of blindness.

The least well-drawn character is the shrink Dr Tobits, whose technique is to poke a stick in the wasps' nest of Lucy's trauma. Such an R D Laing-ish figure belongs in a play of an earlier age, and John Webb's task is to portray the eccentricities of a character that is essentially a plotting bridge.

Vidler, however, is at her most vivid in these counselling scenes, vacillating between uncertainty and gushing. Her scenes with her battle-hardened photo-journalist ex-lover Hal, richly portrayed by Ruairi Conaghan do occasionally tip over into the soap suds - although this can be excused when one remembers Woody Allen's line about life not imitating art, but bad television. And the actors handle the scenes well. The director Roisin McBrinn orchestrates the skirmishes with the unexpected rhythms of friendly fire.

Therapists and relationships aside, this is a play not without originality. Zakarian, herself a former picture editor, has risen above the this-place-would-make- a-great-play workplace drama. Her take on how war affects not just soldiers and victims but also the messengers is thought-provoking indeed.

To 25 June (020-7620 3494)

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