Henri, Gustav and Philippe are veterans of the first world war living in a care home for veterans, run by nuns. They spend their days sitting on the terrace watching the poplars in the distance, observing the minutiae of life in the home and bickering with each other. Each bear the scars, physical and pshychological of their time at war. Henri is lame, Philippe has a piece of shrapnel lodged in his brain and falls unconscious without warning, Gustav is agoraphobic, unable to leave the confines of the home.
The relationship between the three men is beautifully observed, they disagree over everything and contradict each other constantly and yet the affection they have for each other is clear, in the blustery, blokey way they rib each other. Gustav and Henri take care over Philippe's blackouts. Philippe and Gustav fret over Henri's increasing bad humour. When threatened, they band together against a common enemy (the invasion of their terrace by the other inmates!) and eventually when the threat of boredom and imminent death at the hands of Sister Madaleine becomes too much to bear, they plan their escape to the poplars.
Steve Robertson, Gordon Mounsey and Tony Neale perform brilliantly, delivering their lines with perfect timing. The audience laughed loud and long over the asides and one liners. A studio performance, this feels like nothing more than a real conversation between three old comrades - it just so happens that there is an audience eavesdropping on them. Good direction, a simple set, careful lighting, a suitably french sound track, perfectly delivered lines and not forgetting the dog (who was quite possibly the real star of the show) make this an utterly engaging production. The last production in the current studio, it is a bitter-sweet triumph!