Black Watch

At the moment I’m doing a sort of drama module (which is almost coming to an end) as part of my first year of my English Literature degree. I say ‘sort of drama’ because I did not realise it was drama and if I had realised I would not have chosen to do it; I love watching and reading plays but not being in them. We have covered some good plays and I have enjoyed the reading part of the module but the ‘workshop’ part has been my worst nightmare as I am a terrible actress and definitely lacking confidence for this sort of thing. I probably should have looked into it more closely before I chose it, but I have learnt from my mistakes and needless to say have thoroughly researched my modules for next year!

Anyway, I’m digressing from the point. For part of the assessment for this module we have to choose one of the plays we’ve studied and perform it (thankfully only to our tutors and fellow students and not to a real audience) and my group has chosen the play, ‘Black Watch’. If you haven’t heard of it, I strongly recommend you look it up. There’s a performance of it on YouTube and it’s definitely worth a watch; I didn’t realise how good it was until I watched the performance – although you ought to be warned there is A LOT of swearing.

black watch1

It was first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2006 by the National Theatre of Scotland and it received excellent reviews and after a world tour it won several prestigious awards. It’s incredibly moving and thought-provoking as well as having moments of humour and I think it’s a great piece of theatre. It’s about the soldiers of the legendary Scottish Black Watch regiment fighting in Iraq and their views and experiences, which a writer is trying to capture for making a documentary. Some of it is verbatim, which I think makes it all the more poignant and it really gets across the feelings of the men who have served in the Middle East, fighting the war on terror, in a very raw and dynamic way. I imagine that a live performance would be even better but just from the video, the atmosphere that the play created felt very ‘real’ and I almost forgot that I was watching actors and not the real soldiers.

The play gives a window of real insight into the men’s experiences but one that we as the audience could never really hope to properly understand without having fought in combat. But that is part of what is being tried to get across, shown when the writer says that he understands and the soldiers remind him, ‘you dinnay. But dinnay worry about it.’ The ending in particular is very moving, in the final lines the soldiers speaking about their reasons for joining the army to fight: “I fought for my regiment…my company…my platoon…my section… my mates.”

black watch2

While it is a very good play, I’m quite disappointed to have to perform it as there’s no chance that we’ll do it justice, particularly as we only pick out certain extracts and mash them together. Also my group is pretty shambolic and our rehearsals tend to descend into chatting about something else completely so it’ll be a miracle if we can all remember our lines and what we’re supposed to be doing. All in all our performance of ‘Black Watch’ certainly won’t be anywhere near as good as the real thing and I’ll be happy just to pass the module!




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