Billed as an ‘unofficial biography’ of the Blackwatch, this play is more politically relevant for its insight into the difficulties soldiers faced in Iraq, using their own words and experiences from interviews conducted by playwright Gregory Burke. It superbly captures the essence of Scottish soldiers through the acting, accents, dialogue and humour, at the same time making powerful points about the difficulties of fighting an enemy with very few resources who frequently use suicide attacks.
Scenes covering the history of the Blackwatch, its recent amalgamation, the political circumstances around the Iraq deployment and the hardships of the troops are all strung together seamlessly, while at the same time what keeps the audience engrossed is the personalities of the soldiers – simply there to do a job and cope as best they can. The powerful ending then makes a memorable performance unforgettable.
With so much continued media speculation surrounding the Iraq war, this piece gives an honest account from the troops who were actually there, from a recognizably Scottish viewpoint. Refreshing considering most pieces about war come from a America, Blackwatch instead demotes their role and casts doubt over their tactics.
Performed in an old military drill hall, the sparse set is combined with an intelligent use of lighting and powerful audio-visuals to provide even more strength to the piece. The use of music and song also added extraordinary impact to an already extremely emotional piece. All told, ‘Blackwatch’ is historically informed, politically relevant and brilliantly executed – one the most well-rounded, topically insightful and wonderfully paced pieces of theatre I’ve seen.