Black Watch - National Theatre of Scotland - video design by 59


Written by: Gregory Burke

Director: John Tiffany

Associate Director (movement): Steven Hoggett

Associate Director (music): Davey Anderson

Set Designer: Laura Hopkins

Sound Designer: Gareth Fry

Lighting Designer: Colin Grenfell

Costume Designer: Jessica Brettle

Video Design: Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer

Black Watch

National Theatre of Scotland

About the project


Fifty Nine Productions was asked to design and implement the video elements for this ambitious production of Gregory Burke's new play about the eponymous Scottish regiment during a tour of duty in Iraq.

After selling out for it's entire run at the Edinburgh festival in 2005 it picked up many of the UK's major theatre awards, including a Herald Angel, a Scotsman Fringe First, a Best Theatre Writing Award from The List, a Stage Award for Best Ensemble, and the South Bank Show Award for Theatre, as well as four Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland, including Best Production and Best Technical Presentation.

Black Watch has just completed a tour or the UK and North America, and visits Australia in January, before finally appearing in London in mid-2008.

Selected Reviews

'Black Watch is one of the clearest artistic statements yet on the futility of war without ever falling back on the kneejerk liberalism favoured by those with less vision, imagination or creative drive.

The sheer brilliance of John Tiffany's production . . . must be considered a major tipping point for the potential of what theatre can be in this country . . .

Black Watch is an astonishing artistic whirlwind that, despite its localised setting, is utterly international in its approach. The world must see this play. Immediately.'

The Herald * * * * *

'The technical quality of this production is flawless, soaring up to and beyond the gold standard we can expect from our National Theatre. Far more important, though, is the ground-shaking energy with which it announces the arrival of the National Theatre as a force that can reassert a strong, grass-roots Scottish perspective on parts of our story which, until now, have been filtered mainly through institutions of the British state. [Gregory] Burke?s play does not represent the last word on the history of Scotland?s most famous regiment. But it does represent a massive step forward in our understanding and recognition of a vital part of our national story and - potentially - of the relationship between Scottish theatre and the widest possible popular audience, both at home, and far beyond our shores.'

The Scotsman * * * * *

'Brimming with breathtaking theatricality, inventiveness, style thought provoking intelligence, humour and heart, this is a show that should be seen by everyone who can and is sure to be lamented by those who can't.

Politically, [Gregory] Burke condemns the war but not those who fought it, expressing righteous disgust at the breaking up of this most famous of regimental families as part of Government defence cuts. An unmissable piece of theatre.'

The Metro (Scotland) * * * * *

'It might seem premature to announce that the most compelling theatre experience of the entire Fringe has already been unveiled, but if there's a more powerful, urgent, perfectly realised piece of work than Gregory Burke's Black Watch out there, I'll undertake to run to Baghdad and back . . .

Impartial though the piece is, Burke and director John Tiffany know that to get under their subjects' battle-hardened skin, you also need to be as daring as they are.

Hence, in complement to Davey Anderson's rousing reworkings of old marching songs, physical theatre expert Steven Hoggett has been drafted in to help fill the vast university Drill Hall with tightly choreographed athletic activity. It's like watching a 10-man Tattoo, only there's more room for emotionally expressive manoeuvre.

Here, at last, is an evening that accords the UK's long-suffering soldiery some of the public respect they deserve.'

Daily Telegraph

'John Tiffany's storming, heart-stopping production is all disorienting blood, guts and thunder, threaded through with the history and songs of the regiment and intercut with lyrical moments of physical movement, like some great dirty ballet of pulsating machismo and terrible tenderness.

It takes 300 years to build an army, and it only takes three years to destroy it, says one character. In Iraq, both a country and a civilisation have been destroyed. In two hours, Burke and the National Theatre of Scotland shine a spotlight on something that has been lost forever.'

The Guardian * * * * *

'The foundation stone of Gregory Burke as a playwright is his grasp of different kinds of male relationship: camaraderie, community and rivalry are all present between his characters, but they are always talking the same language and wired for the same feelings. His new piece Black Watch fits this hypothesis perfectly.'

Financial Times * * * *

'For once, superlatives are no exaggeration. This is a stunning show. You emerge, after an hour and three quarters of this astonishing show, with your political dander twanging, your outrage tweaked.'

Daily Mail

'It's a superlative play . . . brimfull of theatricality, energy and style, and with its cast of 10, pipe music and huge video projections, it's almost a mini-Tattoo. But there's no flag-waving here, just a deeply humane examination of the culture of soldiering . . . a brilliantly realised piece.'

Evening Standard * * * * *

'This is a true piece of national theatre telling the urgent contemporary, human stories that lie at the back end of grand politics and the sweep of history that never looks parochial or narrowly nationalistic. To all the scepticism and debate about Scotland s even needing a national theatre, to all the sometimes self-lacerating, politically fraught recent inquiries into the devolved nation's culture, the new NTS has slapped down the best kind of answer: rather than more words, a most eloquent piece of work.'

The Guardian

'The actors burn with restless energy and John Tiffany's production is robustly inventive . . . Completely brilliant.'

Sunday Telegraph * * * * *

'The show gets away with its stylized, balletic-meets-bodyslamming battles (choreographed by Steven Hoggett of Frantic Assembly) because the acting is excellent and authentically mouthy. Director John Tiffany and designer Laura Hopkins also inject electrifyingly imaginative images.'

Independent on Sunday

'Brilliantly staged in an old drill hall cavernous, clanging and lit with brutal clarity, so that the shadows are black, and the action keeps on reverberating this is both documentary and lament, accusation and elegy. The dialogue is clenched and full of curses. The soldiers are sinewy scraped, as if they've just shaved in cold water: they speak bluntly; they move with a precision and accord which shows the power of being in a unit and a fighting force, and which exposes as totally flabby most theatrical attempts to mimic the martial.

. . . this is not a play for peaceniks only. It shows both the point of joining up and the desolation the soldiers find once enlisted. It is compulsory viewing.'

The Observer

'Black Watch is a glorious piece of theatre, raw, truthful, uncomfortable, political, funny, moving, graceful and dynamic ... If anyone wondered why we needed a National Theatre of Scotland, this is the answer.'

Scotland on Sunday