By Doug George, Chicago Tribune reporter
9:49 AM CDT, October 11, 2012
John Tiffany is the director of "Black Watch" and an associate director of the National Theatre of Scotland. He also directed the 2012 Tony-winning musical "Once" about a young street musician and his muse. "Black Watch" is written by Gregory Burke about a famed Scottish military regiment that served in Iraq, based on interviews with former soldiers.
Tiffany spoke with the Tribune by phone from London.
Q: You've said it wasn't until the show premiered (in 2006 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival) that you knew you had a story people wanted to hear. What story did you mean?
A: It's the real story of soldiers who were on the ground fighting and dying; we hadn't heard that before. We'd heard from the politicians. We'd heard from the pundits asking if should we be there. But not from soldiers who were actually there, and what they were going through.
Q: It's 2012 and, at least in the U.S., it seems like the Iraq War has become more of a memory. Do you feel "Black Watch" still has the same kind of currency?
A: Well, America was the one calling for "Black Watch" to come back; it was based on demand from the States that we're touring it again. I was nervous it might feel that way, actually, almost like a period piece, because now we're talking about events that happened in 2004. I think in America you're still trying to work through what happened. ... But, you know, right now in the Middle East, Iran and Israel might be in the brink of war. The rest of the world is still paying attention.
Q: Any favorite moments in the show?
A: Oh, the scene with the letters from home, the sign language sequence. … I also love being in the audience and hearing people laugh at some of the humor. It's very dark humor in some places, and the language is very coarse. And we've actually had some people object to that. And I want to say, "You object to their language, but you don't object to them being shipped over to die?" What should they be saying as they're being blown up? "Gosh golly?"
Q: "Once" and "Black Watch" are such different shows. Is one of them more like you?
A: Well, as a director, I love music, I love movement, and both shows very much have those in common. But beyond that, I tend to mold myself around whatever project I'm working on, rather than trying to take a show and make it John Tiffany.
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