Review: A Few Good Men, Theatre Royal Haymarket

Perhaps better known for the Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson starring film, A Few Good Men was originally a 1989 play written by Aaron Sorkin, but is being revived here at the Theatre Royal Haymarket with Rob Lowe making a rare stage foray in the role played by Cruise in the film.

It is a courtroom drama set in Washington DC, revolving around the trial of two US Marines who have been charged with the murder of a fellow Marine at a naval base and the tribulations of their lawyers as he prepares a case to defend his clients but comes close to unmasking a high-level conspiracy which threatens to unravel all their work.

I was surprised at how good Rob Lowe was. He is still supernaturally handsome, but came across really well in showing the man slowly growing in confidence as he realises he is onto something huge and his tenacity is brilliantly lightened with a great set of one-liners that he delivers with aplomb. Suranne Jones was good as the idealistic but naïve Galloway and Jack Ellis does his best to avoid just replaying Nicholson’s inimitable turn as arrogant base commander Jessep who poses the crucial moral dilemma about whether the men and women who put their lives on the line on a regular basis for their country can be judged by the same standards as the res of us.

It was very effectively staged in the courtroom, using multiple viewpoints to keep the perspective changing as the tension is ratcheted up but the way in which the flashbacks to the events in Guantánamo Bay were done was less successful with an overreliance on men in uniforms milling around. The lighting was well done throughout though and good sound effects meant the military presence was never far away. 

All in all, it was a good production of a good play with some innovative ways of keeping the attention during what could have been very static courtroom scenes, but it did seem to be lacking the magic that it needs to really stick in the memory. Part of this is probably due to the play itself in its somewhat ambiguous resolution, it doesn’t quite have the courage of its initial convictions and so ends up underwhelming a little which I found surprising as I don’t remember thinking that about the film, perhaps in losing some of its Hollywood sheen on its way to Haymarket, its inherent weaknesses have been exposed.

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