Black Watch, SECC, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
The National Theatre of Scotland
Gregory Burke (writer), John Tiffany (director), Steven Hoggett (associate director movement), Davey Anderson (associate director music); Joe Douglas (associate director touring) , Laura Hopkins (set designer), Jessica Brettle (costume designer) ; Colin Grenfell (lighting designer ), Gareth Fry (sound designer) , Leo Warner and Mark Grimmer for Fifty Nine Productions Ltd ( video designers), Vicki Manderson (associate movement director) , Anne Henderson (casting director) Laura Donnelly (casting associate ) Manuel Harlan (photographer)
Cameron Barnes ( Macca), Benjamin Davies(Stewarty), Daniel Portman (Kenzie), Andrew Fraser (Fraz), Robert Jack (Writer & Sergeant), Stuart Martin(Cammy), Stephen McCole (Officer & Lord Elgin), Richard Rankin (Granty), Gavin Jon Wright (Nabsy) Adam McNamara (Rossco)

Running time

There is an appropriate air of military precision and quiet crowd control at the SECC as the audience queues to see The National Theatre of Scotland’s latest production of Gregory Burke’s stunning play, Black Watch. This strong and immediate piece of theatre is based on Burke’s interviews with former soldiers who served in Iraq.

Listening to the stirring pipes and fanfare that introduces the piece, it is no wonder that men marched for the King’s shilling. Anticipation builds in the stark and intimate set as the searchlights tensely scan the arena. And everywhere, the fluttering flags of the Saltire.

With a backdrop of diverse music from The Gallant 42, tracks from Snow Patrol, Cliff Martinez and Yann Tiersen, to original music from Davey Anderson and Max Richter as well as the emotive lament The Flooers o the Forest, Black Watch takes us from the snooker halls of Tayside to the desert sands of Iraq. This fierce, highly physical and utterly male play exposes with swagger the tension between seeing the army as a killing machine and finding the real people behind the uniform caught in the crossfire between opposing ideologies.

The National Theatre of Scotland’s slogan of being a ‘theatre without walls’ is thoroughly lived up to as all are broken in this cocky, commanding, self –referential work. The Scots gallows humour, as dark as the regiment’s tartan, and raw barrack room language are simultaneously shocking, sobering and understandable. Stephen McCole as Lord Elgin captures perfectly the diametrically opposed accent of his class as he recruits from the proletariat waving the emotive sword of The Bruce.

The direction by John Tiffany and Joe Douglas has parade ground precision. The ‘golden thread’ of history is ingeniously shown through centuries from jabot to jihad as Stuart Martin(Cammy) becomes a live dressing doll on the red carpet. The choreography by Steven Hoggett from desert booted dance to fight scene is breathtakingly good. The cast carry out delicate hand gestures of signing when they receive letters and switch to high energy formations of fealty at the end. Outstanding among the splendid cast in this technically brilliant production are Stuart Martin (Cammy), Andrew Fraser (Fraz), Daniel Portman (Kenzie), Richard Rankin (Granty), and Gavin Jon Wright (Nabsy).

This is a stand-to-attention, highly political salute to the futility of war that should be compulsory watching in Scottish secondary schools. It does everything good theatre should – touch the heart, the brain and the soul.

Since it first performance at the 2006 Edinburgh Fringe, Black Watch has played to over 212,000 people across four continents, winning 22 awards. Most recently Black Watch made its Asian debut at the National Theater of Korea, Seoul, in October 2012, having previously that year toured the US, visiting Washington DC and Chicago. It has been showcased in festivals and venues in Australia, New Zealand, Glenrothes, Glasgow, New York, London, Toronto, Virginia, Wales, Salford, Coventry, Dublin, Los Angeles, Pitlochry, Aberdeen, Dumfries, Dingwall, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Suggested age 16+

Show times

Weds 10, Thurs 11, Fri 12 & Sat 13 April, 8pm

Sat 6, Sun 7, and Sat 13 April, 3pm

No performances: Sun 31 March, Mon 1, Tues 2, Mon 8 and Tues 9 April

Captioned performance on Weds 10 April, Audio described performance on Thurs 11 April,
BSL performance on Fri 12 April


There are 20 day tickets at £10 that are only available to personal callers at the box office on the day of the performance for the performances(s) that day. These are subject to availability and limited to 4 per person.

All other performances £27.50 (£15 concessions)

Tour continues to Norfolk and Norwich Festival from Wednesday 17th – Saturday 20th April then to Seattle (25th April – 5th May) and San Francisco (9th May – 16th June).