Gregory Burke is the writer of Black Watch, one of two plays presented by National Theatre of Scotland at this year’s Sydney Festival.
The title of the play refers to the legendary 300 year old Scottish Army regiment who recently spent time in Iraq. Described as "a provocative inquiry into British involvement in Iraq and a sensitive examination of Scottish identity", the play was a stand-out at Edinburgh in 2006 and has since embarked on an extensive world tour.
Gregory took time out to discuss his experiences writing the play and the message behind it with Australian Stage's Ashley Walker.
National Theatre of Scotland is Scotland’s first national theatre and was only established in 2006. Why hasn’t Scotland had one before this?
We did have a National Theatre, it was the Royal National Theatre in London. However, one of the thing’s the newly devolved Scottish Parliament wanted to do in order to assert itself in the world of the arts, was set up a National Theatre of Scotland, so they did.
I understand you interviewed the troups of black watch. I believe they were lured in by a “Very Pretty Female researcher”. How hard was it to get these soldiers to open up?
It was very easy to get the soldiers to open up once contact had been made. I think we live in a more confessional time now. People are much more willing to talk about their experiences than they might have been in the past. The only thing no-one would talk about was their emotions. Scottish soldiers don’t tend to do emotions to outsiders. The director and choreographer had to find a non-verbal way of communicating emotion in the show.
In what ways are the experiences of Soldiers in Iraq different to those in other wars? In what ways are they the same?
I think the experiences of soldiers in Iraq are identical to the experiences of soldiers throughout history. Boredom, fatigue, taking pictures of donkeys, terror, excitement, cameraderie. The only difference nowadays is you can be interviewed by a BBC reporter at any time. And you don’t want to lose your mobile in case the Jihadis start texting your mum.
Have any of the soldiers seen the play. What do they think?
Yes, many of the Black watch who were at camp Dogwood have seen the play and they all, to a man, enjoyed it. Many of them now claim (when they chat-up girls) that it’s based on them.
Both you and John Tiffany (Director) feel that this is not an anti-war play, so what is the plays’ message?
It’s a pro-soldier play. And it reminds Scotland of it’s peoples’ complicity in this war and in the British Empire’s many similar wars.
Soldiering continues to be one of Scotland’s main Industries? Is there anything you believe is worth fighting for?
I believe you should only ever fight for your football team.
Black Watch by the National Theatre of Scotland plays until Jan 26 as part of the 2008 Sydney Festival and from 7 - 17 Feb as part of the Perth International Festival of the Arts
Further information: Sydney Season» | Perth Season»