Saturday, April 14, 2007

"Black Watch" - 14 April 2007

Update 9 June 2007 - see comments below for details on a radio performance of this.

By rights this review of "Black Watch" by the NTS at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow only needs one sentence: "Believe the hype - everything you have ever heard about this show is true." What could I possibly add amongst all the 5 star ratings from respected professional reviews? Well tonight (14th April) we saw a slightly different performance of "Black Watch" to the ones they saw...
Due to his commitments with "Spanglebaby" which we had seen earlier in the week, Brian Ferguson was unavailable for a couple of the Glasgow performances of Black Watch, including tonight. As a result Paul Rattray stepped up from his usual role of "Granty" to play the central role of "Cammy", with Jonathan Holt stepping in as "Granty". To be honest I was disappointed to discover this as I'd heard great things about Ferguson's performance as "Cammy" and had enjoyed his performance in "Spanglebaby". Of course there are times an understudy is required, but I'm not altogether happy about it being due to them performing in another show half a mile along the road - surely better scheduling could have prevented this. Anyway, given the circumstances I think more than my original one sentence review is deserved.

The Old Fruitmarket was a great venue, although it proved a little problematic as we waited to be ushered into the performance space - get there early! I still don't believe there is anything I can add to the wealth of praise for the play but I need to highlight just how brilliantly it is structured. The set pieces all hit the mark one after another, and although in the first half I was concerned that while impressed, I wasn't emotionally invested in the characters, the second half put me right on that. I also *knew* I was watching something a bit special during the final set piece as I felt that genuine spine-tingling moment that can't be mistaken.

I'm not going to spend any time commenting on the cast in general as it's comprehensively covered elsewhere, but I would say that Tom Smith's performance was so exceptional I had no idea he was the same actor playing his two distinct roles until reading it after the show. Rattray gave a great performance as "Cammy" making him just sympathetic enough to keep the audience onside while not softening him too much. Apart from minor difficulties in the choreographed on stage costume change you would never have suspected this was not his usual role, and it's difficult to see that Ferguson could have played it any better. Similarly Jonathan Holt was excellent as "Granty" and didn't look out of place in the slightest. Given the energy of the piece and the intricate choreography it's incredible they can integrate the changes so seamlessly.

Believe the hype - everything you have heard about this show is true.

Edit 31 March 2008 - And is still true almost a year later when we saw the show again!

Photograph by Manuel Harlan, used with permission.

6 Heckles

Craig said...

I agree completely. It's my fav. piece by NTS so far :)

As a young person interested in the Arts I also found it great to see such an energetic male cast on stage!

Great site

(oh and I'm glad you enjoyed When A Star Falls too :) )

Waldorf said...

This really was a stunning piece of theatre. It captured you from early on, and kept you with it throughout.

With a running time of almost 2 hours with no interval it's a long show. However at no point was I even tempted to glance at my watch - and I doubt anyone else did either. What was also nice is that they make it abundantly clear that if you leave during the performance there is strictly no re-admittance. Sometimes I wish other theatres (cough - The Citizens) were as strict with this one.

The NTS have published the script and production notes - which they sell at the shows for £5. Well worth picking up to have a read through later. This is something that we've seen at a couple of NTS shows and something that should definitely be encouraged.

For me theatre is about the whole experience. Although a good script is the starting point which the performers build on with their delivery, I also like to see sets, costumes, lighting and sound coming together to make the complete piece. This doesn't need to be a huge expensive flashy productions - just a good use of the resources available.

Black Watch does this - and for me 2 moments capture this perfectly. I won't spoil them for those who haven't seen it. For those who have - pool table and the history of the Watch.

This is that start of a world tour for Black Watch. I'm interested to see what is made of it outside its home country - especially when it reaches the US. I hope that the NTS aren't making any concessions for 'foreign' audiences - dae ye ken. Although maybe a glossary in the programme would be a guid idea!

Anonymous said...

I sadly saw TEAM at the Arches on Friday - AWFUL, AWFUL, AWFUL.

Then I went to see Black Watch on Sunday - it was like medicine. The cure to TEAM.

Claire said...

I was curious to know how they'd cope in a venue other than the drill hall used in the festival. But from the sounds of things, the set would dismantle and reassemble reasonably easily.

I loved this production last year. It was absolutely the highlight of my festival. A very clever piece of scripting and brilliantly performed. You wouldn't think a bunch of people pretending to read letters could make you cry. But somehow they did.

Tempted to see it for a third time but I wouldn't like the magic to wear off.

Waldorf said...

For an alternative take on Black Watch, BBC Radio 3 will present a radio performance this Sunday. NB the link is to the Drama on 3 page on the BBC's website so it may change after the broadcast so just in case I've copied the text below.

Black Watch

Sunday 10 June 2007 20:45-22:15 (Radio 3)

By Gregory Burke.

A radio version of the National Theatre of Scotland's award-winning theatre production, Black Watch is based on interviews conducted by Gregory Burke with former soldiers who served in Iraq.

Hurtling from a pool room in Fife, to an armoured wagon in Iraq, the action is viewed through the eyes of those on the ground, and reveals what it means to be part of this legendary Scottish regiment, and the war on terror.

This play contains very strong language.

1 hour 30 minutes

Stewarty ...... Ali Craig
Fraz ...... Emun Elliott
Granty ...... Paul Rattray
Cammy ...... Brian Ferguson
Kenzie ...... Ryan Fletcher
Officer ...... Peter Forbes
Sergeant/Writer ...... Paul Higgins
Rossco ...... Jordan Young

Original music composed by Davey Anderson
Directed by John Tiffany

Thanks to Craig Steele for the reminder.

I'll add a further comment after broadcast to give the listen again URL.

Anonymous said...

Johny holt went to my high school, i was at a performance when he played Granty and he has come some way since i last saw him act as Cilla black in s6. Really good show, creates dramatic scenes with minimal props and staging. Well deserves all "rave reviews"