This is not an easy play to watch. Such contentious topics as Iraq, spin journalism and sadomasochism are not merely explored, but taken apart, and often in painful detail. The script plunges the depths of the human psyche, revealing the more unpalatable aspects of everything from patriotism to sex – which is not to suggest that Guardians sacrifices entertainment for worthiness; the interspersed moments of humour, whilst uncomfortable, are also very, very funny. I almost didn’t dare laugh on occasions when the brutal humour teetered on the edge of what is bearable, but the irreverent approach and complete absence of political correctness are refreshing. The difficult line between the acceptable and the unacceptable is expertly trod by Mark Cartwright and Rebecca Gibson, who managed to command my entire attention for an hour and a half of interspersed monologues. This is even more impressive considering the fact that ‘English Boy’ and ‘American Girl’ are unsympathetic characters taken to the extreme. Yet Cartwright imbues his grasping, amoral journalist with an almost hypnotic charisma, whilst Gibson’s long-suffering soldier had my empathy even as she recounted acts impossible to contemplate. Not only is Gibson’s accent spot-on, but she embodies ‘American Girl’ down to every twitch and shuffle, and manages to convey a sense of lurking vulnerability. The intimate nature of the monologues, combined with the skill of the cast in melding the personal and the political, create an atmosphere where the audience feels like a voyeur, almost implicated in the increasingly bleak events as they are retold. ‘English Boy’ describes visiting a bondage club as like ‘going to hell as a tourist’, and that fits this production perfectly.Director Will Measham is ‘fed up with student apathy’, and as wake-up calls go, this is unignorable. You could call Guardians ‘spin’ of a different sort – counter-spin, if you will – but its versions of the truth are extremely persuasive. What’s more, the gritty realism of the acting and the sparseness of the direction combine to create a production in which I can find nothing to criticize. This play isn’t going to be for everyone – certainly not for those who go to the theatre for light-hearted escapism – but it is uncomfortably good.