Friday, July 18, 2008

Black Watch at the Barbican (Take Two)

I was tempted to let that last line stand, after all what can one hope to add to the waves of acclaim that have followed this production since its Edinburgh debut in 2006? A production that is near enough finished its London run anyway? Not that much. But I feel the need to say something and, obviously, it was not merely OK, it was rather brilliant – and it passed the Mother Test with flying colours. Despite her pained expression when informed she was going to the Barbican, and despite the fact that the Barb lived up to expectations by being roped off in places necessitating much wondering up and down stairs to find a bar that had any wine to serve us, my mum said it was the best thing I’ve ever taken her to see – a fact only partly influenced by the fact she found herself standing by the fountains next to Ralph Fiennes when she went out on the terrace to smoke her pre-show cigarette.

I also loved it; it certainly deserves all the praise it has attracted. John Tiffany’s National Theatre Of Scotland production creates a rare harmony between the visual and the emotional. While the material mined from the interviews with the Black Watch soldiers is already full of powerful stories – like that of the soldier, who having survived an attack that left his friends dead, keeps rebreaking his injured arm every time it begins to heal – the power of these stories are enhanced by the scenes of dance and mime, which successfully convey the things left unsaid in this intense, insular military world: the longing for those left at home, the men’s sense of fear and frustration.

The ensemble cast have a fantastic rapport with one another, conveying the mutual protectiveness and the intense sense of connection that comes from co-existing together in a place where you may need to kill or could be killed at any time, and while I partially agree with the Whingers, in that it wasn’t quite the sum of parts, it contained so many separate wonderful moments – the pool table, the final tainted Tattoo – that it didn’t really matter. Anyway, I could go on – at some length – but I suspect it’s all been said already.


Anonymous said...

Pleeeeeeeeeease let us come to the theatre with your mother.

Helen Smith said...

Good review and all true - but I must admit, the previous version made me laugh an awful lot.