“I don’t do book reviews” David Milliband responded tersely when he was recently asked to comment on some recent spilling-the-beans autobiography or other. Well this blog doesn’t usually cover theatrical productions but Blackwatch currently at the Barbican merits a mention. The main message the audience is left with is “war – what is it good for?” The Iraq war in particular has its legitimacy questioned and demolished.

The play, which initially appeared to rave reviews at the Edinburgh festival, captures the experiences of Scottish sqauddies in the Blackwatch regiment gleaned from interviews with them on their return from Iraq. It shifts the spotlight to the human price paid by the individuals. Some suffer from depression, others are lost. Inevitably the vernacular from north of the border conjures up comparisons with Trainspotting.

Shock tactics and some arresting yet simple and non-flashy special effects are employed in the pacy plot. The all-singing, all-dancing cast of young Scots exhibit such energy in their actions that you feel exhausted watching. Importantly this memorable production resists the temptation to be preachy and bash people over the head with its anti-warmongering. Lots of the messages must be inferred – like the unequal David and Goliath battle with the Iraqi forces or the fact that the pre-emptive nature of the conflict is at odds with everything the young men had been learned in training. Geoff Hoon and Alex Salmond are both directly portrayed trading insults. Both are made to look idiotic, as is our whole involvement in the sorry shambles.

Worth a squint if you have a free evening and can get yourself to London before the current run ends. The Independent did a glowing write-up of the same production. This review here from a Scottish blogger of a tv version captures the spirit perfectly. Finally, that heading is technically wrong (it’s theatre not opera) but you get my drift.