Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2023 Theatre Review: Blue (Assembly George Square) ★★★

An unflinching portrait of policing, politics and racism in America, June Carryl’s Blue is hard to watch for all the right reasons.

When LaRhonda Parker is asked to investigate the shooting of an unarmed Black man during what appears to be a routine traffic stop, she ends up sitting across the table from a cop she has known for many years. Is this man her colleague, her husband’s fishing buddy, one of the “good guys”? Or is something more sinister lurking beneath his friendly exterior.

June Carryl and John Colella in Blue. Photo Credit: David Adly Garcia.

Writer Carryl, who also plays LaRhonda, is a force to be reckoned with in this timely, probing play which challenges the assumption of “police as protectors”. Her ability to keep her character’s reactions light and friendly whilst subtly showing the real feeling beneath is a masterclass in subtext. As Sully, John Colella ably navigates the shifts in tone, from charming to intimidating and relaxed to outraged, whilst retaining a surprising likeability.

Blue is an affecting play, particularly in its examination of the wider political context that the police forces exist in. In order to do this, however, the character of Sully needs to admit fairly readily to some unsavory thoughts and actions, which stretches believability. The actors manage this as well as they can, and Carryl introduces new layers in the writing to cleverly complicate the relationship, but the script sometimes lacks the finesse that the performers bring to it.

The closing moments of the piece are the hardest, and that Carryl goes through it in every show is testament to her commitment and the importance of the work. The impact is profound, and the message certainly hits its mark.

By Deborah Klayman

Blue plays at Assembly George Square, Edinburgh until August 28th 2023.

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