by Lauren McGrath
Q. Is there anything you would like people to know or understand before attending Black Watch?
Like any good theatre, they shouldn’t need to know anything. It’s our job to resource them through the performance to understand the narrative and the issues that we’re raising. It would be useful presumably if they knew that the Black Watch was a one-time military regiment who served in Iraq. But apart from that I wouldn’t really expect them to know anything. That’s my job.
Q. This play employs some unique staging and movement–how do you think this contributes to the overall experience for the audience?
Theatre is a live, visceral art form so I think a piece of theatre about the army—which has threads of movement and music running through it—it’s a natural home to allow those threads to fuel a piece of theatre. Black Watch also ties into the tradition of Scottish theatre, which has strong elements of music, music hall and vaudeville. There’s also the template of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which was very useful to work with. On a large scale, [the staging] allows us to reference the spectacle of the army, but also it can allow us into the hearts and minds of the soldiers by communicating in ways that aren’t text-based.
Q. Are there any particularly memorable moments from rehearsals you feel were important to the process of directing the play?
The ex-regimental Sergeant Major came to drill us and teach us how to march. We had five minutes of hilarity before realizing very quickly if we got it wrong, we were letting the whole team down. That was a real lesson.
Q. Have you perceived any difference between Scottish and American audience reactions to the performance?
The reactions are very similar—American audiences seemed to find it easier to explore the experience of Iraq and use that as a template to see Afghanistan through Scottish soldiers’ eyes, which was quite a revelation to me. But they respond very similarly to the piece.
Q. What most excites you about bringing this production to Washington, D.C. and to the Shakespeare Theatre Company?
Quite a few soldiers and former members of the Black Watch have seen the play. They have received it very positively and we have been very humbled by their reaction. In Washington, we have the potential for the people who sent these soldiers into Iraq and Afghanistan to actually see the show.