Monday, June 23, 2008

Black Watch

Here it is, the promised Black Watch review. I've been wrestling with this a little bit, trying to figure out how to articulate what was a pretty emotional experience. I was crying all through the final scene because it was so beautiful in its staging. Other colleagues I saw after the show had a similar reaction.

Why did we react this way? The story itself has been told before - soldiers talking about their real experiences, not wanting to be pigeonholed based on politics but recognized for doing their job, although this is the first I'm aware of about the Black Watch itself.

The only conclusion I can come to is the staging, which is a potent mix between realism and high theatricality. There are so many examples of this. We start off with a writer interviewing some retired members of the Watch. Some of them are playing pool. When the scene shifts to Iraq, two soldiers cut their way out of the pool table and start the scene. The table, with a new top placed on it, gets used again after one of the ex-soldiers talks about their locker (the back end of an armoured truck, if I'm remembering this right) being no bigger than it. At one point we're taken through the history of the regiment, with the soldier who has been our primary guide through the story being changed into the various historical uniforms as he talks about it. And when we hit the climax of the story, when 3 of them are killed by a car bomb, they are descended slowly on wire, balletic in their movements yet still realistically flying through the air in an explosion. The finale reminded me so much of Soldier's Mass, which I saw the National Ballet do a couple of months ago. Maybe that's why I found myself crying.

It wasn't just the acting and blocking either. Whether it was creating the feel of being under attack, or hearing political rationale, or the stirring finale, the sound along with video and lighting effects were stunning, making the show a feast for the eyes and ears. I was warned I would have trouble with the Scottish accent but I picked up most of what they were saying, and I suspect the stuff I missed had more to do with Varsity Arena's acoustics than the actors.

One thing I would be really interested to see would be a script. I'd like to see the dialogue I missed and I'm really curious as to how strong the script really is. One colleague suspected it really wasn't and it's the inventive staging that makes the show. I wonder if that's true.

It is rather sad that I could go on and on about Midsummers' Night Dream and yet be so at a loss here. But while I was glad I saw Midsummers', this show is that one that is inspiring me and I suspect will stay in my memory a long time.


Theatre is Territory has this great article on the politics and funding of Luminato, with a follow-up article coming next week. May the debate continue.

2 comments:

Ali McLeod said...

What a terrible shame that you choose to write a review that 'gives away' key scenes in the story. The surprise elements of the staging have been part of what has made made Black Watch such spectacular and dramatic theatre. Shame on you.

MK Piatkowski said...

I didn't believe I was spoiling the surprise for anyone because for me, there wasn't an element of surprise in those moments. The ending is telegraphed early on and many reviews I saw talked about the other elements of staging I talked about. I was trying to illustrate what I found so unusual and innovative to a reading audience of theatre-makers, so I felt I need to have more detail.

You're still entitled to shame me if you wish, though.

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