Black Watch (play)

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Black Watch
Written by Gregory Burke
Place premiered Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Original language English
Subject The Black Watch Regiment in Iraq 2004
Genre Drama
Setting Iraq War

Black Watch is a play written by Gregory Burke and directed by John Tiffany as part of the first season of the National Theatre of Scotland.[1]

Based on interviews with former soldiers,[2] it portrays soldiers in the Black Watch regiment of the British Army serving on Operation TELIC in Iraq during 2004, prior to the amalgamation into the Royal Regiment of Scotland. Black Watch was first performed during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on 1 August 2006 in a temporary traverse stage at the former University of Edinburgh Officer Training Corps' Drill hall.[3]

Well received by critics, Black Watch has won four Olivier Awards including Best New Play.[4] It has also won a Herald Angel, The Scotsman Fringe First, a Best Theatre Writing Award from The List, a Stage Award for Best Ensemble, the South Bank Show award for Theatre and four Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland.[2]


The Black Watch regiment is based in Fife and the Tayside region in Scotland, and the army has been a part of their lives for generations. Their fathers, grandfathers, great grandfathers, have been soldiers in the regiment – a regiment that has been involved in virtually every major conflict since it was formed as the Gallant Forty Twa in 1739. "It's in the blood. It's part of who we are."

In October 2004, the Black Watch was at the centre of political controversy after the United States Army requested British forces to be moved further north outside of the British-controlled Multi-National Division, to replace forces temporarily redeployed for the Second Battle of Fallujah.

Despite objections in Parliament, the deployment went ahead. Based at Camp Dogwood, located between Fallujah and Karbala, in an area later dubbed the "Triangle of Death", the Black Watch came under sustained insurgent attack from mortars and rockets. On 4 November three soldiers and an interpreter were killed by a car bomb at a check point. The high profile nature of the deployment caused a magnification of these deaths back home in Britain. On 16 December 2004, the controversy surrounding the Black Watch was further heightened by the official announcement that the regiment was to be amalgamated with the other regiments in the Scottish Division to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The then Secretary of State for Defence, Geoff Hoon, was accused by the SNP of "stabbing the soldiers in the back" and being motivated purely by political and administrative concerns, with little regard to the effect on morale.

Cast and productions[edit]

Original cast 2008 cast 2010 cast Latest cast
Cammy Brian Ferguson Paul Rattray Jack Lowden Stuart Martin
Granty Paul Rattray Jonathan Holt Richard Rankin
Rossco Jordan Young Duncan Anderson Ross Anderson Adam McNamara
Stewarty Ali Craig Steven Miller Chris Starkie Benjamin Davies
Macca David Colvin Cameron Barnes
Nabsy Nabil Stewart Ryan Fletcher Stuart Martin Gavin Jon Wright
Writer/Sergeant Paul Higgins Michael Nardone Adam McNamara Robert Jack
Kenzie Ryan Fletcher Paul James Corrigan Scott Fletcher
Fraz Emun Elliott Jamie Quinn Andrew Fraser
Officer/Lord Elgin Peter Forbes Ian Pirie Stephen McCole
Understudies Paul Tinto Daniel Portman
Matt McClure

Other cast members have included: Tom Smith (Sergeant/ Writer – 2007 Scottish tour), Jack Fortune (Officer – 2007–2008), Henry Pettigrew (Rossco, 2007–2008) and Jack Lowden (Cammy, 2011).

Black Watch was the first National Theatre of Scotland production to be performed internationally. Productions have included the following:


The production's score features new music and arrangements of traditional songs from composer Davey Anderson alongside contemporary chart hits, instrumentals and recordings. Traditional songs are sung live by the cast. The Black Bear is performed live on bagpipes.

  • Salute to the Commonwealth – The Band of HM Royal Marines Scotland
  • Spitting Games – Snow Patrol
  • First Sleep – Cliff Martinez
  • Gallant Forty Twa – Traditional, arr. Davey Anderson
  • Selection – The Black Watch Pipes and Drums
  • Forfar Sodgar – Traditional, arr. Davey Anderson
  • Farewell to Nigg – Shooglenifty
  • Summer 78 – Yann Tiersen
  • Twa Recruiting Sergeants – Traditional, arr. Davey Anderson
  • Maybe You're My Puppet – Cliff Martinez
  • Last Days – Max Richter
  • A Thearlaich Òig (Oh Young Charles Stewart) – Margaret Bennett & Martyn Bennett
  • Flowers of the Forest – Traditional, arr. Davey Anderson
  • Black Bear – Traditional, arr. Davey Anderson


"They were every soldier; they were also irreducibly themselves. This exquisitely sustained double vision makes Black Watch one of the most richly human works of art to have emerged from this long-lived war" The New York Times[5]

"Rarely has the torpor, the tension, the nerve-shattering randomness of this conflict's violence been made so agonizingly real – in real time. Black Watch is like a dose of caffeine delivered directly to the bloodstream." The Washington Post[6]

"Brimming with breathtaking theatricality, inventiveness, style, thought provoking intelligence, humour and heart…an unmissable piece of theatre." Metro[7]

"A mature and complex piece of political theatre – fierce, passionate and unguarded." The Guardian[8]


The production has won multiple international awards including four Laurence Olivier Awards (Best New Play, Best Director, Best Theatre Choreographer and Best Sound Design), four Critics' Awards for Theatre in Scotland and The South Bank Show Award for Theatre.

DVD release[edit]

A DVD recording of the play, including the Scottish BAFTA award-winning BBC Scotland documentary Black Watch: A Soldier's Story, was released in October 2008.[9] It won in the international category in the 2008 Prix Circom Regional Programme Awards.[10]


  1. ^ "Black Watch | Main | National Theatre of Scotland". Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "UK | Scotland | Tayside and Central | Black Watch play tops awards list". BBC News. 13 May 2007. Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  3. ^ Thom Dibdin (10 August 2006). "The Stage / Reviews / Black Watch". Retrieved 30 September 2010. 
  4. ^ Olivier Awards
  5. ^ Brantley, Ben (24 October 2007). "THEATER REVIEW | 'BLACK WATCH'". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  6. ^ Marks, Peter (3 November 2007). "'Black Watch': Embedding Drama With War Reality". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  7. ^ Chadwick, Alan (6 August 2006). "Black Watch". Metro. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  8. ^ Gardner, Lyn (8 August 2006). "Black Watch". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  9. ^ "BBC RELEASE BLACK WATCH DVD AND DOCUMENTARY". 10 October 2008. Retrieved 1 October 2010. 
  10. ^ Croatia (10 February 2010). "Prix Circom 2008". Retrieved 1 October 2010. 

External links[edit]