It’s almost 11 years, now, since the National Theatre of Scotland launched its ground-breaking production Black Watch, an enthralling piece of physical and musical theatre based on verbatim interviews with Scottish soldiers who had served in Iraq. Since then many more shows have explored the experience of recent British veterans and their families.
Pink Mist ****
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Last Tango in Partick ***
Oran Mor, Glasgow
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time ****
Edinburgh Festival Theatre ****
Yet if there’s any temptation to wonder whether more theatre on this subject is needed, it’s all but blown away at the Traverse this week by the power and poignancy of Bristol Old Vic’s 2015 show Pink Mist, a play for six actors in which three Bristol lads sign up to “play war”, as they used to do in the school playground.
Written by Owen Sheers, Pink Mist is narrated in powerful rap-style verse by Arthur, who encourages his mates Taff and Hads to reject pointless lives and jobs in Bristol and sign up for the army. Like Black Watch, John Retallack and George Mann’s production makes powerful use of dance and movement – backed by a fierce dub-step soundtrack from John Nicholls – to evoke both the experience of Afghanistan and its terrible percussive echoes in the men’s minds when they return.
At two hours, Pink Mist is a longer show than Black Watch, partly because it uses verbatim material from Sheers’s earlier play, not only to give full value to each of the three men’s stories, but also to reflect the responses of Arthur’s girlfriend, Hads’s mother and Taff’s wife. This focus on personal stories gives this show a poignancy, intensity and accessibility that makes it a vital part of the continuing conversation about the UK’s recent wars, and the terrible price they exact.
At Oran Mor, meanwhile, A Play, A Pie and a Pint and the National Theatre of Scotland present a new 45-minute play by Alison Lang called Last Tango In Patrick, or An Tango Mu Dheireadh Ann Am Partaig, although in truth, if it were not performed in two languages with excellent subtitles, there would be little of interest at all, in this witty but predictable Shirley Valentine tale of pretty middle-aged Moira, whose humdrum married life takes an unexpected turn when she meets a handsome Gaelic-speaking dance teacher at the local tango class.
And this week in Edinburgh, the Festival Theatre sees the return of the National Theatre (London’s) wonderful Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, adapted from Mark Haddon’s award-winning novel.
This time around, brilliant young Scottish actor Scott Reid plays Christopher, the gifted Swindon lad with Asperger’s who has to take control of his own life after the adults around him go into meltdown; and this latest cast navigates superbly through the show’s astonishing inner landscape of light, sound and numbers, in which world-class design and movement supports Christopher’s story all the way, without ever distracting from its sheer human poignancy and power.
*The Curious Incident tours to Aberdeen and Glasgow in August