Assembly George Square – The Box
LAPD sergeant Boyd Sully (John Colella) has shot and killed a black man during a routine traffic check and is now being questioned as a part of an administrative investigation. The victim, a war veteran with severe PTSD, failed to stop when asked to, which prompted the officer to pull the trigger and kill him instantly. An internal enquiry is now due, to establish whether that was a reasonable use of force against an unarmed man.
In charge of the procedure is LaRhonda Parker (June Carryl), a newly promoted detective. She is married to Sully’s former patrol partner and long-time friend. Their personal connection inevitably makes things awkward, as each attempt to understand the exact unfolding of the events drifts cyclically towards flippant memories of a fishing trip all together. It doesn’t help that the sergeant – who has served in the force for almost three decades – keeps changing his version of the facts. It’s a nail-biting powerplay that Colella and Carryl (also author of the play) act out with incredible grit. They make us forget that we are watching a piece of fiction and are arguably the best pair of actors you will see at this year’s Fringe. Required to see-saw between laughter and outbursts of rage, friendliness and official tones, they are sustained (and challenged) by a scrupulously realistic script.
Carryl’s choice to present the case from the point of view of the perpetrator and those around him is a tense affair that exposes the systemic shortfalls of the Police Department. The oath to “protect and serve” is tainted by a white supremacist bias or, perhaps more disturbingly, conflicts with personal interests within the force.
The play’s title is a reference to the Blue Lives Matter movement (as opposed to Black Lives Matter), which emerged as a reaction to police officers being killed whilst on duty. With this in mind, and coming to the realisation that even the most unsuspected are somehow part of the problem, we are left in shocking frustration as the lights go down, when a voiceover reads a list of names of unarmed people killed in recent times by the police. It is chillingly long.
Written by: June Carryl
Directed by: Michael Matthews
Produced by: Rogue Machine Theatre
Blue plays at EdFringe 2023 until 28 August, 5:05pm at Assembly George Square. Further information and bookings here.