Solstice, The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon

The marriage of a pious middleaged candlemaker has worn threadbare, and it soon becomes apparent that his wife is dying of cancer.

As the authorities prepare to bulldoze the village and exploit its mineral wealth, their son abandons his studies to take part in an act of terrorism. This will avenge a murder which was itself revenge for an act of vengeance.

Zinnie Harris's new play is described as a "prequel" to Midwinter, briefly glimpsed at the RSC's New Work Festival last year, and will eventually form the first part of a trilogy exploring the impact of war and ethnic cleansing. The location is unspecified and while the former Yugoslavia may come first to mind there may be parallels with Iraq and many other war zones.

However, Solstice seems to me to suffer from a fundamental flaw, which is that the author has little of interest to say about her somewhat schematic characters. It is almost as though the glumness of this thankfully short evening is an end in itself, a kind of theatrical exorcism of guilt for living comfortably far away from such unimaginable (and here scarcely imagined) realities.

It is certainly a pale piece when set aside the vivid memory of Un-Earth, the astonishing evocation of the Bosnian war staged at MAC last year. One moment stands out, when the candlemaker, who has decided to stay and meet his fate in the village when refugees are coached out, says a brief goodbye to his wife: "It is funny isn't it, when it comes to it, there is so little to say," she says.

* Running time: One hour, 15 minutes (no interval). In repertory until July 9.

Terry Grimley