It's been over two weeks since I saw Gregory Burke's Black Watch and it's still with me. So much so that the actor who played Cammy showed up in my dream last night. It's haunting.
The staging of the show, at Chicago's Broadway Armory, was so striking, such a perfect fusion of theater and space, that I can't imagine seeing it any other way. Surely they don't also produce this show on traditional proscenium stages? So much would be lost. No, you have to sit on those risers, in an homage to (mockery of?) a military tattoo. You have to feel the reverberations of the explosions. You have to stare through the action at your fellow man across the way (the night I saw the show, my fellow man happened to be Mayor Daley).
In watching these men - these beautiful, strong, silly, angry, brave, lost, crude, noble men - you can begin to see them as more than war story archetypes. Their personalities emerge. They peel back their layers of vulgarity to reveal an astonishing depth of character.
This show doesn't feel directed, it feels choreographed. But to say "choreography" suggests the qualities of an effeminate dancer. Happily, these men steer clear of such any such missteps. This is movement. Sometimes violent, at other times tender. But always masculine. Manly, but with the voices of choir boys:
I watched a good portion of this show breathless, tears streaming down my face. The juxtaposition of horror and gallantry quite simply broke my heart. Thanks to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the National Theatre of Scotland for one of the best theater experiences of my life.