Went to see Rob "West Wing" Lowe in Aaron "West Wing" Sorkin's play A Few Good Men on Friday. The play appeared on Broadway in 1989 before it became a Hollywood film starring Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Jack Nicholson. For those unfamiliar with the plot, naval officer-lawyer Daniel Kaffee (Lowe) has to defend two young marines accused of murdering a weaker recruit during a "code red" procedure (a ceremonial dressing down, which might include shaving the offender's head, or beating the shit out of him). The code red may or may not have been ordered by the marines' superior, Colonel Jessop. Courtroom drama and lots of shouting ensues.
The whole thing was enjoyable, watchable and surprisingly really good, though the characters are never quite more than the high-quality dialogue they speak. But Lowe has enough charm to keep the most jaded cynic smiling wistfully for days. If you've seen the film, what was strange about the play was the fact that the actors played it for laughs on a surprising number of occassions - and got them.
Contrasting strongly with the West End glamour of Rob Lowe's perfect hair was the grainy violence of the "initiation ceremony" footage of British marines that emerged on Sunday. It shows two naked marines fighting each other in the mud while others (also naked) stand around egging them on. When one of the men appears to refuse to fight, a superior officer, dressed as a surgeon (the other is in schoolgirl grab), kicks him in the head, knocking him out. The footage seems slightly speeded up, giving the whole thing the appearance of an old-fashioned silent movie, with the costumes adding to the surrealism. It looks like some weird ultraviolent playground. Media reaction so far has been flippant, unshocked - they are marines after all.