- David Laing
- 10 April 2008
Rothes Hall, Glenrothes, until Sat 5 Apr, then touring
While many Scots disagree with the continuing troop presence in Iraq, there remains an undeniable sense of pride in and anxiety for our troops overseas, and it’s this sense of a shared identity, reflected in the camaraderie among the soldiers, that Gregory Burke taps into in his now legendary testament to one of the world’s most exalted regiments.
Based on interviews conducted by Burke, this visceral, immediate elegy explodes from the pool halls of Fife to the battleground of Iraq, relaying the history of the regiment and the experiences of troops recently on the frontline, their journey to war, and, for some of them, the journey home.
Stopping off on home turf during its acclaimed world tour, the National Theatre of Scotland’s gem has lost none of its richness or passion since it tore into the nation’s consciousness in 2006. Each attention-thirsty scene fights to thrive, just as Burke’s compelling, raw Fife drawl demands to be heard. Between Laura Hopkins’ scaffolding set, which hints menacingly at the world beyond, John Tiffany directs with such an awareness of the regiment’s history that he has the hairs on your neck standing to attention even before the incredible, surging sense of pride brought by the Gallant Forty Twa.
The faultless cast relocate from Fife to Iraq so effortlessly that the transition tears at the senses, spewing forth the emotion and humour required to survive in such a hostile environment. Combining stunning physical poetry with a heart wrenching score, this is politicised theatre at its best, a theatre of passion and ideas, beautifully unpartisan, which allows the soldiers’ stories to relay their need for purpose and belonging in their own muscular words. A ‘Golden Thread’ of identity burns gloriously through the history of Scotland and the Black Watch, and this ten-strong Tattoo, with the sound of bagpipes and drums as its beating heart, provides theatre in Scotland with a red hackle icon to admire, and unrelentingly demands to be seen.