12 January 2008

Petrol and porn

I saw the National Theatre of Scotland's Black Watch last night. (It's the ninth show I've seen this year - yes, it's Sydney Festival time!) It's about the famous Black Watch Regiment and their deployment in Iraq. The play moves between their active service and their homecoming, and all the contradictions of the two.

It begins in a pub with the boys recounting stories to a journalist. When a knife comes up through the felt of the pool table, followed by a hand, followed by a soldier in full combat gear, then another, you know you're in for some gripping theatre. And it doesn't let up for almost two hours.

While it's anti-war, it respects the tradition and comraderie of the regiment, even if it's out of step with today's muddy politics. One of the characters sums it up perfectly: "It takes 300 years to build an army that's admired and respected round the world, but it only takes three years pissing about in the desert in the biggest Western-policy disaster ever to fuck it up completely."

Later, an officer tells a soldier to leave the photos of cars and centrefolds up on his wall: "It's important that we have a reminder of what we're here fighting for: porn and petrol."

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