BLUE at 7 DIALS. Laurie Sparham Photography.

Blue by June Carryl at Seven Dials Playhouse | Review

Blue, which has recently opened at the Seven Dials Playhouse is a one-act two-hander that covers an “administrative investigation” into the shooting of David Mason, a 33-year-old black man by a white policeman. The officer under investigation is Los Angeles Police Department Sergeant Boyd Sully (John Colella). His statement that he stopped a car for having out-of-date tags then, when challenged the driver drove off and was shot whilst attempting to get away sounds very credible from the off. However, the family of Mason are not happy and have submitted a formal complaint which is why Sully is sitting in an interview room now.

Sully feels he was justified in his actions and is looking for a fairly easy ride especially as the investigating officer Detective LaRhonda Parker (June Carryl) is an old friend and wife of Sully’s former partner. But, no matter how much a friendship there is, Parker is determined to get all the details of the shooting and as the interview goes on, delves deeply into Sully and her own personality and loyalties exposing surprising traits that are better left hidden.

BLUE at 7 DIALS. Laurie Sparham Photography.
BLUE at 7 DIALS. Laurie Sparham Photography.

As intense plays go, Blue is definitely among the best. Without wanting to sound too much like a cliché, playwright June Carryl takes the audience on a wild rollercoaster of emotions from laughter to an ending that had more than one of us emotional and wiping away the tears. Not being familiar with American police procedures, it did initially strike me as strange that Parker would have been assigned to investigate someone that everyone knew was a close family friend, but thinking about it afterwards it made sense. Whether the higher-ups in the force wanted to exonerate Sully or hang him out to dry, using a black female friend of his was a masterful move. I did find Parker’s interrogation style interesting, especially with Sully’s attempts to distract her by using shared memories, and also felt that the questioning did stray into some dodgy territory that, if the case had gone to court, would have given Sully’s lawyer space for calling out the procedure. However, I was hooked by the story and whilst some of the revelations weren’t that surprising, others came as quite a shock.

A lot of this is down to the performances. I have to be honest and say that, even knowing nothing about the show or the characters, I really didn’t like Sully from the start. There was something about the character that gave me a gut feeling that this guy was a wrong ‘un – good job I’m not a police officer you might think. I can’t give you any tangible reason for my feelings, but it is all down to the actions and performance of John Colella. Similarly, Parker gave me good vibes when she arrived and I was on her side throughout, even when her actions were, to my mind, questionable. Director Michael Matthews has set the stage in the round, so the interview area was surrounded on all four sides which, with the strip lighting above, and the walls with the ‘two-way’ mirrors added to the sense of claustrophobia that interview rooms are meant to give those being questioned.

At around sixty minutes, Blue rattles along at a good speed but never feels rushed, and when the ending happens it’s at the right point and nobody is left wondering if more could have been unearthed about the two officers who are, and it’s often forgotten, human beings behind their badge.

Given events in the USA and elsewhere, and despite being set in 2021, Blue is unfortunately still a very relevant play and maybe that adds to the way it makes you feel at the end. Extremely engaging and thought-provoking, Blue is a very welcome addition to the West End.

4 Stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Join Los Angeles Police Detective LaRhonda Parker as she dives into the heart of a gripping interrogation of one of her own in the shooting of a Black motorist. But this isn’t just any case. The officer is a family friend and her husband’s ex-partner.

Boyd Sully John Colella
LaRhonda Parker June Carryl

Director Michael Matthews
Playwright June Carryl
Producers Mark Giberson, Betsy Zajko, and Rebecca Eisenberg with No Boundaries Theatrical Productions.

5 MAR – 30 MAR 2024

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