The spray of blood, bursting into a cloud, shot by a sniper, nothing left but Pink Mist. After witnessing this, it would be hard to wander the empty streets again. Poet Owen Sheers’ play is a modern story of three teenagers desperate to be “masculine”. But will they return from Afghanistan as men? A Bristol Old Vic production, it comes to the Traverse bringing along the local history and accents of that part of the world.

Sheers interviewed 30 ex-servicemen as the basis of this verse-play. The performance, directed by John Retallack and George Mann, looks at rehabilitation or lack of it in the aftermath of war, and the effect on all those involved – not only the men, but their wives, girlfriends and mothers.

‘Who wants to play war?’ In the playground boys pretend to be soldiers. They are obsessed with tanks and guns, but what happens when it’s no longer a game? Arthur, Hads and Taff were childhood friends but as teenagers they swap their PlayStation controllers for the real thing. Post 9/11 they are deployed to Afghanistan, because that life seems more meaningful than becoming an assistant manager at Next. The choreography throughout the piece could be a performance of its own. The cast are elegant and well timed and in a slow motion dream we travel with them from their playground to the war zone.

Initially it seems as though Arthur (Dan Krikler) is going to be the only one to narrate, but each member of the cast brings their own different character, psychologically affected by the war. Each word and every movement come together perfectly to create a powerful, visceral performance. With a simple set consisting of only a wheelchair and a bench, the focus is truly on their stories and you become immersed in their world. The dubstep soundtrack drowns out the sound, the memory, and the trauma – it’s their only escape. After seeing Pink Mist, you may not find it as easy to escape the stark reality.