Band of Brothers

‘Black Watch’ finds creative ways to tell an age-old story

September 26, 2012
Scott Fletcher, center, plays the newbie Scottish soldier Kenzie in “Black Watch.”

We’ll probably never see “Iraq War: The Musical!” (thank goodness). The lives of soldiers can be expressed in song and dance, though, as proved by “Black Watch,” now at Shakespeare Theatre. The play, which dramatizes the lives of Scotland’s famous Black Watch regiment during its tour in Iraq, veers between a straightforward docudrama and a variety show, with numbers explaining the history and culture of the regiment. Co-director Joe Douglas filled us in.

The Black Watch isn’t well known here — is it tough for American audiences to connect to the play?
It depends on where you play — in Texas, there was a very pro-military feeling, whereas in D.C., it was more of a thinking audience, standing back a bit more.

The songs are Scottish folk songs, right?
Most of the folk-y-sounding songs are old Black Watch regimental songs. These are all songs members of the Black Watch have sung for hundreds of years.

Some of the actors have relatives in the Black Watch, but these guys are actors, not soldiers. How did you get that military physicality ingrained in them?
The original company had a drill sergeant who came in for a little while and did a few sessions with the boys. And there’s a fitness regime that kicks in as soon as any rehearsals start.

So that’s why all of your actors are so ripped.
We’re notorious in Scottish theater. When actors know “Black Watch” is auditioning, they all start hitting the gym.

Shakespeare Theatre’s Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW; through Oct. 7, $70-$85; 202-547-1122. (Gallery Place)
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