Black Watch [The Barbican/London] – Theater Review
Watching the Iraq War from a vision of an altered perspective, specifically from the dynamic of US Allies, is always a structured equation. While many of the forces that affect the world cause consequences in other countries, the man on the ground perspective for the most part is kept by wayside. “Black Watch”, a production of The National Theatre Of Scotland, performing at The Barbican in Central London, addresses these elements in a tale of Scottish soldiers recollecting and reliving their ideals and thoughts within a very vivid portrayal of a platoon’s permutations during the war. Certain perspectives involve IEDs as well as mortar attacks while others have the boys hanging out talking about the usual stuff: women, porn, guns, explosions but with a rife sense of realism. The language is heavy as a warning but that is what the intention is showing in terms of soldiers dealing with war. The juxtaposition of certain aspects of normalcy like soldiers ripping in transition through the felt of a pool table create an interesting dynamic.
Like certain visions of “Apocalypse Now”, the reality of the boredom in the field waiting for attacks to happen can become a bit of an unreal limbo which the actors accurately capture. One specific sequence where the lead soldier recalls the progression of civilian life to soldiering is told while the rest of the cast in methodic fashion changes his costumes mid walk lifting him around in the air befitting of the point in his story. The seamless and logical nature in how this relates to the narrative offers an undeniable visual motif to the proceedings giving a perspective of time without the use of sets which is distinctly difficult to do. War songs of loss and duty play into the pinnacle of the show and provide connection to the heartstrings in the nationalistic idealism of Scotland without resorting to melodrama. Humor and drama interact in a very specific way, especially in juxtaposition to what the characters are thinking much in the same minimalistic intention of “The Deer Hunter” where life becomes a shallow reflection of whatever defining moment exists in these soldiers’ minds. “Black Watch” offers a rare occurrence in the balance of distinct drama and humor within a realistic structure offset by abstract perceptions of the mind. Out of 5, I give it a 3 1/2.