Wassup Rockers

Black Watch @ St. Ann’s Warehouse (Final NYC Performance).

I’ll keep it relatively short. Earlier this evening I went to the last performance of Black Watch, which was playing at St. Ann’s Warehouse. Paid full price for my tickets, hahaha. For the most part, I loved the location, I think it’s great that they’re using a warehouse as a performance space and the set up was wonderful too. The only thing that sucked was the lack of legroom.

To sum up the play, it’s the story of a unit of Scottish soldiers who were sent to Iraq, and in the span of the play we see their motivations for being in the army, their relationships with one another, and the boredom and shock of being part of a war that they didn’t even start in the first place, among other things. The story is framed as an interview between a researcher looking to write a play about their war experiences–which we can assume became Black Watch–and several soldiers now out of the army.

After the performance my dad told me how he loved it, but would have loved it even more if he knew more English. I think he actually said that he wished he’d understood as much as I did, and I had to fess up and tell him that I couldn’t understand a good portion of the play because of their accents. The combination of a non-American accent plus my damaged hearing meant that I kind of struggled to understand some parts.

Luckily, there was plenty that didn’t rely on dialogue. There was extensive use of video and sound effects, but I absolutely loved how well the actors took advantage of the strip of space (there was no real stage). Really inventive and really well-executed. The choreography was particularly memorable, from the fighting sequence, to this really great sequence where the actors were signing (I’m assuming it was Scottish Sign Language?) the content of the letters they’d received from home. Even the scene where we finally see some casualties was choreographed in the most stylized–but certainly effective–way.

The actors obviously put some serious work into the performance, and I think they can go home satisfied, knowing their last performance went off without a hitch. Or if there were any hitches, I definitely didn’t realize it. I couldn’t tell you what the characters’ names were… it tends to happen with most war-related movies I watch. There’s such a strong element of “unity” that it didn’t seem to matter. All the horrible shit happened to all the characters. They were all stuck in Iraq fighting some stupid war that they hadn’t started in the first place. There’s one scene where two of the characters get really angry at each other so their jefe is like, I’ll give you ten seconds for you to duke it out, and suddenly it becomes this elaborately staged fight sequence where all the actors pair off and they all get into simulated fisticuffs. A really interesting point in the play, by the way, was that they differentiated between fighting and bullying.

Another very strong element was the music. I liked the singing okay, at first it was jarring because there was no hint that they’d burst out singing out of nowhere, but I got over it very quickly because the songs were beautiful. Even better, however, was the music composed specifically for the play. The program I have in my hands says it was written by this dude named Davey Anderson. Really evocative shit, if a little too loud for my fragile ears. I know, I know. I should just stop complaining about it because obviously I live in a loud world that’s not gonna bow down to my lower volume demands. And I must admit that they used dynamics very effectively, too. It’s just that when it got loud, it got MOTHERFUCKIN’ LOUD. Like, all the way to 11. It was stressful.

They warned us about a million times that this was a 2-hour production with no intermission and that if we exited we weren’t allowed back, but the pacing was good and I never felt bored. I didn’t react as strongly as other people at first. Like there were a lot of funny lines but I couldn’t muster up the energy to… well, to LOL. I did enjoy the quips a lot, I think I was just feeling sick (honestly, I’m feeling sicker by the second). But as I got more worn out I guess I opened up more and more to what was unfolding in the play. When the Dude Who Was Clinically Depressed just bugs out on the Researcher Dude, I actually felt a lot of angst for the Depressed Dude. Somehow I got roped into the play emotionally and it didn’t hit me until then that I’d become really invested in these dudes, even if I couldn’t tell them apart into individuals. Strange? Like real life.

As a final and lighthearted note, I want to point out that Rosie Perez was here to watch the play, which now makes it twice that I’ve seen her at the theater. Jesus, I don’t know how I ended up writing so much…


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