Sam Mendes' Donmar has been in the news recently, and thanks to the current war in Afghanistan, the Donmar's latest play has a topicality too.
Set in the 1940s, it deals with a camp concert party that entertains British troops in hot humid far-flung lands. Written by Peter Nichols, Privates On Parade has music by Denis King, and is an affectionate tribute to the entertainers who kept troops happy in an inimitably British way.
These days, thanks to modern communications, the armed forces have the luxury of being entertained by pop stars and other celebrities, specially flown in for the occasion - as they were in the Gulf War and have been in the current conflict. But in the 1940s and 1950s things were very different, as is made clear in Nichols' hilarious account (written in 1977) of a post-war army concert party in Malaya.
Provided by fellow-soldiers with a theatrical bent, as a form of battlefield entertainment it lacked polish but had a charm and innocence - despite being often wildly camp - and helped produce a generation of comic writers and performers of the calibre of Kenneth Williams and Stanley Baxter (and Nichols himself). Privates on Parade stars Roger Allam, who was most recently seen in the National Theatre's productions of The Cherry Orchard and Albert Speer, and Malcolm Sinclair - who has been appearing at the National in Luther, playing a Cardinal.
The play is given another topical edge by the fact that it is directed by Michael Grandage, whose previous productions for the Donmar have included Olivier Award-winning Merrily We Roll Along and Passion Play.
Grandage has been in the news this week as a likely successor to Sam Mendes, though Sir Peter Hall's son Edward is also believed to be in the running.
This will be the third of Nichols' plays to be performed in the West End in the space of a year, the others being Passion Play (in 2000) and A Day in the Life of Joe Egg.
Privates On Parade has a limited run at the Donmar to March 2, 2002.
For tickets and further information call the Donmar Warehouse box office on 020 7369 1732.