Monday, 1 April 2013

Black Watch

SECC, Glasgow
5 stars
The world has moved on since the National Theatre of Scotland's 
epoch-making dissection of men at war took Edinburgh by storm in 2006, 
but still the conflicts continue. Almost seven years later, and this 
latest tour of duty of Gregory Burke's play culled from interviews with 
Fife-based Iraq veterans is as thrillingly relevant and theatrically 
jaw-dropping as ever, and deserved every moment of the standing ovation 
it received on Saturday night.

It opens with all the pomp and circumstance of the Edinburgh Military 
Tattoo, but this is just the sucker punch for the deathly quiet entry 
of Cammy, the ex squaddie who acts as our narrator and guide. At first 
we see Cammy and his mates in the pub, shooting pool as they explain 
life during wartime to a researcher wanting to turn their story into 
the play Black Watch became. Within minutes, however, we're lurched 
onto the front-line. In both there is a simmering mix of anger, 
bucket-mouthed gallows humour and an unreconstructed machismo that 
occasionally spills over into violence.

It's the fluidity of form and styles that impresses in John Tiffany's 
defining production. There's music hall, direct address and agit-prop, 
all reinvented for a twenty-first century post-modern collage effect. 
The history of the Black Watch regiment itself is told via a series of 
choreographed quick-changes on a red-carpeted catwalk. The ever 
versatile pool table is also still in place.  All of this is tirelessly 
delivered by a twelve-strong ensemble under the guidance of Tiffany, 
choreographer Steven Hoggett and one of the most powerful creative 
teams on the planet, who combine to make what remains one of the most 
necessary theatrical experiences of the last decade.

The Herald, April 1st 2013

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