On Tour, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, London

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The Independent Culture

Both men protest their innocence ("You know what it's like. A football match, someone drops their pint glass, they arrest every Anglo-Saxon in a 10-mile radius") and set to work on proving their macho credentials. H, the Mancunian wide-boy, struts around the cell like a manic Ian Brown, saying he has an opportunistic finger in every kind of dodgy pie and expounding his theories to the younger Daz, a cockney ex-Marine and seemingly a simpler creature, a "meathead" who loves fighting. As the two bond in a blizzard of cocaine, H reveals his plan to rip off an old associate, roping Daz in as his muscle.

Paul Anderson and Jeff Hordley as Daz and H are energetic, and there are great conversational moments (including a debate on Lacoste vs Prada), but the exposition is a little slow. After a high-octane scene change (Lisa Lillywhite's ingenious set deserves a mention), Ray (Andrew Schofield) enters - a diminutive, soft-spoken Liverpudlian who changes the dynamic and injects some dry wit into proceedings.

The banter is top flight, all three wearing their regional accents like football strips without slipping into cliché. But in the final half-hour, Burke flexes the credentials that saw him win the Critics' Circle most promising playwright and several best new play awards in 2002. H and Ray see their petty crimes spiral into danger and power changes hands quicker than the wraps of cocaine, leaving us unaware who's in control until the last minutes.

Burke deals deftly with the lack of certainties in a world where money means everything and a handshake counts for little. With its power shifts, threats of violence and spare staging, On Tour is a profane version of Pinter's The Dumb Waiter for the football generation, confirming Burke as one to watch for the future.

Ends tomorrow (020-7565 5050)