Black Watch / The Quiz
Various venues
June, 2008

I found myself marching out of step with most critics in actually being better disposed to Black Watch on a second viewing than I was first time out in Edinburgh back in 2006.  On that earlier occasion I felt, as some do now, that the movement sequences by Frantic Assembly’s Steven Hoggett were too self-conscious, even precious, in an otherwise physically brutal evening.  This time they didn’t worry me nearly as much, perhaps because I knew they were coming.  Also, a testimony to the length of time this company has been together and the degree to which they have honed their acquired skills: in my childhood, when we watched television coverage of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo or the like, my father (now deceased) would hark back to his own military days and pass almost invariably withering comments upon the standard of drilling exhibited by even these showcase companies.  Ever since, whenever I’ve seen any such synchronised movement, military or theatrical, I’ve inwardly heard my father’s wryly disparaging voice.  But in the Barbican, the Black Watch company shut him up.  That’s praise indeed.

I missed David Bradley’s performance in The Quiz on its first London outing last month at the Rose in Kingston, but caught up with it in Trafalgar Studio 2.  It’s one of those endearingly bravura pieces, which couldn’t help but remind me of my late friend Val Widdowson’s signature performance in James Saunders’ (more or less) monologue Triangle – I wonder whether this play’s author Richard Crane had encountered the Saunders piece.  I also wonder whether he encountered Bruce Myers’ performance for Peter Brook in 2006 of the Grand Inquisitor monologue from The Brothers Karamazov which forms the backbone of Crane’s play, and whether that experience inspired the erratic conduct of the protagonist here...

Written for Theatre Record.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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