Motortown, Royal Court Downstairs, London

Don't mention the war
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The Independent Culture

This is Woyzeck for the 21st century. In Simon Stephens's new play, Danny (Daniel Mays) is an Essex boy-turned-squaddie back from Basra. He says it was a doddle, but we glean he's been shaken and brutalised. Ditched by his ex and crossing paths with supercilious cynics, he grows increasingly psychotic with a racist streak. The fallout is horrific and distressing.

This could feel like a grotesque (as well as topical) horror story and the play has flaws. However, what is actually unnerving is the downplayed mundanity. Stephens combines potent menace with surprisingly gentle comedy, tenderness and unpredictable plot twists. Ramin Gray's staging is all the more unsettling for having superb slice-of-life acting (from Mays, Tom Fisher, Ony Uhiara and others) on a bare workshop stage, with just bleak plastic chairs dragged into new configurations between scenes. Worth catching.

To 24 May, 020 7565 5000

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