Black Watch was recommended to me by a friend at work, who swore it was the best piece of theatre she had ever seen.
After that bold statement, I couldn’t resist experiencing it for myself.
The Black Watch is an esteemed army infantry battalion from the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Their name allegedly came from the dark tartan they used to wear to watch over the Highlands. This regiment has an important history which is explored through the play. I particularly enjoyed the sequence in which we watched one soldier being dressed and undressed continually by all the other men to display the regiment’s changing uniform over time. It was quite beautiful.
The music that occurs intermittently throughout the show is haunting and moving: various clips of Scottish band Snow Patrol and Michael Nyman as well as authentic regimental songs are cleverly used, interspersed with sounds of mortars, IEDs and C-bombs. Often the men sing enthusiastically along to the tunes, with an endearing pride. The language is crude, even filthy, throughout, and yet it soon feels natural to hear them speaking this way. There is also an element of dance in the production – violence is shown through stylised miming that is quite balletic, a dramatic juxtaposition with the hard army demeanour.
The narrative focuses on the Black Watch’s involvement in Iraq. Jack Lowden is superb as the devoted yet understandably bitter Cammy. Jamie Quinn is sweet playing Fraz, a strangely evocative performance as a less fortunate soldier. The rest of the all-male cast create a powerful and intense piece of theatre.
I forgot these men are actors, I completely believed for the 110 minutes of the play that they were soldiers. The Black Watch is known for its exceptionally strong sense of identity and camaraderie, a mindset that is portrayed immaculately by the lads on stage.
Many nights are already sold out, so be quick about getting your tickets for Black Watch, this is a play not to miss.