Does stage director Edward Hall recall the impact made by Somerset Maugham's For Services Rendered in Michael Rudman's 1979 revival at the National Theatre? He would only have been 11 at the time, though I suppose his dad - the NT's then boss, Sir Peter - would very likely have taken him along to the show.

The production created renewed interest in a writer whose work - even one-time stalwarts such as The Circle, The Constant Wife and Home and Beauty - had been unjustly neglected for too long. Unfortunately for Maugham's reputation, this was not to last, and we have not been offered much opportunity to assess his stagecraft in the years since. Welcome indeed, then, is Mr Hall's Watermill revival of For Services Rendered (written in 1932) which, while not revealing a classic, certainly presents us with a fine, well-made play that definitely fulfils its purpose as an anti-war polemic.

"Is it tea-time?" - the first line spoken in the piece, to the background sounds of a fiercely contested tennis match, suggests that Maugham is out to subvert a genre. Its speaker is materfamilias Charlotte Ardsley (Polly Adams), whose four children, along with their partners and friends, are to be our concern over the next two hours.

What looks to be a gentle domestic comedy in the making turns out to be anything but - though there are a number of notable comic moments. None is funnier - if more tragic - than the delivery of complacent platitudes about the importance of family life, and patriotic love of his country, made by his fireside at the play's close by Charlotte's pompous solicitor husband Leonard (John Nettleton). If he'd fight for his country again, you think, then heaven help all who join him.

The speech reminded this reviewer of the long-ago Christmas message cosily spouted beneath the festive tree by Crossroads' Meg Mortimer at the end of a year that had seen the celebrated Midlands motel shaken by murder, rape and a terrorist kidnapping. Like her, this blinkered buffoon has, it would seem, registered nothing of the mayhem that has gone before. Nor has he paused to consider how he had it in his power to prevent some of it.

In this context, it has to be admitted that there is a deal of what we now call 'soapiness' in the fates - so many and various and so oddly focused on this one family - that have befallen the characters. A fatal illness, a suicide, a descent into madness, alcoholism - all are here, together with so many sexual passions stirred. Fortunately, Mr Hall has assembled a cast to die for, whose members manage to make the sometimes unlikely scenario ring true and occasionally produce scenes of shiver-making excitement. A definite 'find' is the lovely Olivia Llewellyn, as the youngest of the three Ardsley daughters who fires the lust of a visiting fat-cat businessman (David Yelland) to the jealous fury of his very silly wife (Lucy Fleming).

Her older sisters prove less lucky in life and love. Chained to the task of endlessly entertaining their brother Sydney (Richard Clothier), who was blinded in the war, poor Eva (Abigail McKern) tries to free herself by proposing marriage to a failing businessman and former naval commander (Tom Beard) who simply isn't interested. Ethel (Issy van Randwyck), meanwhile, has to endure the incipient infidelities of her hoary-handed husband (Simon Slater), a man with a permanent chip on his shoulder over class and a well-filled glass of whisky in his hand.