THREE veterans of the First World War seeing out their days in a retirement home hardly sound like a recipe for a great night's theatre.

And when you find that one's got so much shrapnel in his head he blacks out with increasing regularity, another's got a gammy leg and the third such a serious case of agoraphobia he can't leave the tranquil confines of their terrace, the prospects for mirth seem remote.

But Heroes, at Malvern Theatres this week, would confound your fears.

Brilliantly executed by a superb cast, Gerald Sibleyras' play, translated by Tom Stoppard, is joyously life-affirming. Comparisons with Waiting for Godot are not fanciful although here the touch is lighter.

There's little sentiment, little nostalgia in the relationships between the three heroes of the title: just a refreshingly direct and very funny mirror held up to the human condition.

Henri ( Michael Jayston), Gustave (Christopher Timothy) and Philippe (Art Malik) don't waste their time looking back - they are too busy in the present and preparing for a brighter future.

As fellow inmates celebrate the advancing years and peg out, our three crusaders devise endless schemes to defeat the real enemies of boredom, age and negativity.

All too aware of their infirmities, and threatened with an invasion of 'their' terrace because of repair work to the home, they examine the options.

Escape to Indo-China is ruled out as an impossibility; a picnic is equally discarded as too tame but an expedition to the beckoning poplars of a distant hilltop should just about be manageable for the intrepid band, until Gustave insists on adding a fourth to their party.

This 90 minute short deservedly won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy when it triumphed in the West End and Malvern audiences should count themselves lucky to have the chance to savour such a perfect gem of theatre.

It continues until Saturday.