National Theatre of Scotland's

Black Watch

October 10 - 21, 2012

at the Broadway Armory, 5917 N. Broadway.

A World's Stage Production
from Scotland
by Gregory Burke
directed by John Tiffany

Critical Acclaim

     On the one hand, Black Watch, is a genuine spectacle that revels in its own theatricality and comes replete with music, marching, explosive effects and its own piper. On the other hand, it's a very self-aware deconstruction of the very drums-and-pipers military tattoos that I used to get taken to as a kid at the Edinburgh Festival. It very much wants to be about the life of the grunts on the ground, and its success in that endeavor, while simultaneously embodying and celebrating the traditions of its subject regiment, is one of the many things that make it both admirable and very exciting to watch. This is the kind of rare piece that will appeal to progressive thinkers but that a conservative veteran from another army or era would instantly recognize as striving for the truth about what it feels like to be stuck in harm's way, lost in a place where the recruitment slogans and the heroic expectations hit hard against a much messier reality and trying to do your best.”  Read full review

“I have been thinking about the emotional minefields planted in Black Watch ever since the Chicago Shakespeare Theater first presented this devastating National Theater of Scotland production at the Broadway Armory in March 2011. Watching Wednesday night's return engagement of the enthralling mix of grand-scale spectacle and intimate storytelling—a testament to both dramatic invention and physical expressiveness—I began to make a list of unforgettable moments in this 110-minute intermissionless work, which is based on interviews with former soldiers but which goes far beyond “testimony.” It was a very long list. Every scene grabbed hold. As directed by John Tiffany and choreographed by Steven Hoggett (who subsequently teamed on the unique Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Once”), “Black Watch” becomes a hybrid of pure theater, cinematic motion and the powerhouse balletics of military life. It creates a language of its own, just as war does.” Read full review

     There's no missing the gut-punching power of the National Theatre of Scotland's production. Based on interviews with former members of Scotland's legendary Black Watch regiment, Gregory Burke's seamless hybrid of movement, music and dialogue also boasts one of the most electrifying all-male ensembles Chicago has seen. The production plays out in the cavernous Broadway Armory... with heat, light and frenetic activity, making the action seem as up-close and personal as if it were playing out in a tiny storefront. Sound designer Gareth Fry creates an immersive audio of mass impact, deploying bagpipes, orchestral swells, ancient Scottish folk songs and the relentless percussion of marching feet in a soundscape that drives home the uncompromising ruthlessness of war. While the Black Watch unit may have vanished, its essence blazes like the theatrical equivalent of an eternal flame in Black Watch. ”

“Authentic, astonishing...To pass up "Black Watch" is to deprive yourself of the theater's most ingenious portrait to date of the war in Iraq and of modern warfare in general. The jolts delivered in this soul-piercing production by the National Theatre of Scotland also emanate from the propulsive energy of its fierce young Scottish soldiers, clinging to regimental pride as tightly as to their automatic weapons. By the end of 110 remarkable minutes, I was in tears, moved as much by the enthralling stagecraft as by the virile commitment of the superb, 10-man cast.”

“#1 Theatrical Event of the Year... one of the most richly human works of art to have emerged from this long-lived war.

A few minutes into the show, you begin to grasp just how thrilling—and disturbing—Black Watch is going to be. Every moment seems to bleed from the previous one in an uninterrupted river of sensations. Black Watch is a necessary reminder of the transporting power that is unique to theatre.”   

Black Watch is an astonishing artistic whirlwind. The world must see this play. Immediately.      ” 

“A spirited explosive production...the opening night crowd was plunged into stunned silence...fight for tickets.”  

“Put simply, it’s essential that you see Black Watch: it’s among the most compelling theater pieces you could wish to see. And weep for, in a sense. The production from Scotland’s National Theatre is a magnificent one, and its awesome reality and humaneness will overwhelm you.”

      What a relief, at last, to have a play about the Iraq war that doesn’t lecture us, with the ghastly smugness of hindsight, on what we all know already. This soldier’s viewpoint is a blast of fresh air. And not once in two hours do you remember you’re watching actors. You think you’re watching Scottish squaddies, square-bashing, on ops, ‘on the pish’—the energy and conviction of the ensemble is astonishing.”

“The production has a stunningly vibrant immediacy. The cast achieve perfection both at the drilled physical dynamism and the filthy, expletive-choked gallows humour. Full of intelligent, heart-twisting ambivalence, Black Watch is a landmark event.” 

“Shifting fluidly among three distinct levels of theatrical representation, Black Watch at its best is a stinging and often heartwrenching primer on the hearts and minds of soldiers today and, by extension, throughout history.”  

“A show of astonishing power...a tragic, hilarious, lyrical and unforgettable snapshot of the views and attitudes of ordinary soldiers caught in the turning-point for the whole British army, for Western policy in the Middle East, and for global politics. Small wonder that this play has resonated across the planet...”

      Here is a startling, noisy, upsetting, violently thrilling show...This pulsating epic of a night swirls with bagpipe music. Its emotions boomerang from boredom to bravado, jitters to jocularity...By the time of the finale of choreographed square-bashing, to stirring music, all doubting hearts have surely been captured...History in the making.”

“The ten actors go through their physical paces with admirable intensity and discipline. From its startling early scene in which a soldier cuts his way out of a pool table to the haunting final tableaux depicting the effects of a suicide bombing, Black Watch provides a theatrical experience not easily forgotten.”


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