Category Archives: Edinburgh Festival

Olivier awards for Iraq play Black Watch that took West End by storm

From , March 9, 2009

The cast of Black Watch portrayed the proud history of the soldiers of Fife

The cast of Black Watch portrayed the proud history of the soldiers of Fife

In full: the winners of the 2009 Laurence Olivier Awards

  • No one who saw the electrifying premiere of Black Watch in an old drill hall at the 2006 Edinburgh Festival will forget it. With balletic grace, gallows humour and visceral horror, the play presented a squaddie’s view of the Iraq war and put the fledgeling National Theatre of Scotland on the map. Last night the judges of the leading awards in British theatre sealed Black Watch’s status as a modern classic when they gave it four Laurence Olivier Awards – the most for any single production.
  • Chief among them was the Best New Play award. Although Black Watch is three years old, it was not performed in London until the Barbican rebuilt its theatre last summer, and the Oliviers – once the Society of West End Theatre awards – still recognise only plays in the capital. At the ceremony at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane there were also plaudits for the Donmar Warehouse, with four awards for productions in three venues, and for the Royal Shakespeare Company. The National Theatre, London’s creative powerhouse in recent years, won only a single award for Best Set Design.
  • The Donmar’s residency at the larger Wyndham’s Theatre in Charing Cross Road was one of the most welcome developments in London theatre last year. Derek Jacobi’s performance there as Malvolio in Twelfth Night secured him the Best Actor prize. The RSC received three Oliviers for its mammoth staging of Shakespeare’s History Cycle at The Roundhouse. The eight plays, charting a tumultuous century of English history from the pomp of Richard II to the last, desperate flounderings of Richard III, were all directed by Michael Boyd. The 35-strong cast won the Best Company Performance award. The Histories also won for Best Costume Design and Best Revival.
  • Patrick Stewart received his third Olivier as Claudius in the much anticipated “David Tennant” Hamlet. Tennant, or “Doctor Who” as many of the heartbroken ticket-holders knew him, was ineligible for an award because his ricked back meant that he gave too few performances. There were also prizes for La Cage aux Folles, Jersey Boys, God of Carnage and Sadler’s Wells dance theatre, as well as a special award for the playwright Alan Ayckbourn.
  • But the night belonged to Black Watch, its writer Gregory Burke and the National Theatre of Scotland. Neil Murray, the company’s executive producer, said: “We were three years old two weeks ago. To win Oliviers at this stage of our development is something we had not even dreamt of.” Black Watch also won Best Director (John Tiffany), Best Theatre Choreographer (Steven Hoggett) and Best Sound Design (Gareth Fry). The play grew out of the decision to disband the Scottish regiment as its soldiers were about to be pitched into the killing zone around the city of Fallujah in 2004. Burke spent weeks with veterans of the operation. From their testimony he portrayed the fighting men of Fife, a working-class community with a proud military history.
  • After the Edinburgh Festival the production toured Scotland, playing at unlikely venues including a disused hydroelectric laboratory in Pitlochry, the Highland Football Academy in Dingwall and the Scottish Parliament. There was then a global tour. “Everywhere we’ve gone people have been blown away,” Mr Murray said. “People talk about the urgency of the story but that would be irrelevant if it wasn’t a brilliant piece of theatre too.”