EDINBURGH — The National Theater of Scotland is making its first visit to the U.S. with “Black Watch,” a tough play in a military setting, laced with more profanity than vintage David Mamet. As if to make amends, the company is also bringing “The Wolves in the Walls,” a “musical pandemonium” pitched at family auds.
Gregory Burke’s “Black Watch,” which last week topped the Scottish legit crix annual awards, will tour to UCLA Live for the Intl. Theater Festival from Sept. 18-Oct 14 and then Gotham’s St. Ann’s Warehouse, Oct. 20-Nov. 11.
The runaway hit of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, “Watch” is a verbatim drama about Scotland’s ancient military regiment and its frontline experiences in Iraq.
“I’m fascinated to see how ‘Black Watch’ connects with an American audience,” says helmer John Tiffany, who will be directing Alan Cumming in “The Bacchae” in this year’s Edinburgh Intl. Festival. “There’s a huge audience who wants to hear about these things. It feels like America is where the U.K. was at last year in terms of our relationship with Iraq and our leaders who took us into that war.”
In Scotland, the play has been performed in non-traditional theater spaces to capture the atmosphere of an army drill hall. St. Ann’s Warehouse was chosen with that in mind while, in Los Angeles, the Freud Playhouse will be specifically converted.
Although dealing with the invasion of Iraq, in particular events at Camp Dogwood where the Black Watch regiment relieved U.S. forces in 2004, the play sidesteps the debate about the rights and wrongs of military action. Instead it puts the experience of ordinary, working-class soldiers centerstage.
“It’s very hard to argue with the politics of ‘Black Watch,’ because it is not an opinion; it is just the true stories of these boys, and any opinions expressed are theirs,” Tiffany says.
The show will be preceded in Gotham by “Wolves,” an adaptation of the children’s picture book by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, at the New Victory Theater, Oct. 5-21. First seen in the U.K. last year, the play is co-directed by NTS chief Vicky Featherstone and Julian Crouch of England’s Improbable Theater (“Shockheaded Peter”).
The National Theater of Scotland launched its inaugural season in 2006.