June Carryl on Blue at Steven Dials Playhouse

Photo: Michael Matthews

In this unflinching study of the very real and current issues surrounding policing both in the USA and UK, US based writer and actor, June Carryl deftly illustrates how a career ostensibly dedicated to the pledge to ‘protect and serve’ has become a magnet for those is search of power. The play is a powerful examination of the recent crises that have plagued policing both in the USA and UK.

The play won rave reviews from the press at the Edinburgh Fringe including a five-star “Review of the Week” from The List and a Fringe First award from The Scotsman and now transfers to Seven Dials Playhouse, where it opens tomorrow.

We caught up with Carryl to find out more about Blue.

Q&A with June Carryl

What can you tell us about Blue?

Blue is first and foremost a relationship play. It’s about two cops, a black woman and a white man, who find themselves on opposite sides not just of the law, but of each other, when the white male officer kills a black motorist during a traffic stop. It’s about the heartbreak of realizing that someone you love and care for doesn’t see you or even really know you at all, particularly, the black female officer, Parker, who discovers that the person she thought was her friend could just as easily be her mortal enemy. Meanwhile Sully, the white officer, discovers that his way of seeing and being in the world may not be universal and he feels threatened by that. As hard as they are fighting for their point of view, both are shattered by it.

What was it that inspired the play?

The play was inspired by George Floyd’s death, but I didn’t know quite what its form would take until the events of January 6, 2021, the day of the riot at the capitol. It felt so surreal to watch cops being menaced and swallowed up by this crowd of incredibly entitled angry people. Their skin, their power, their privilege wasn’t going anywhere, yet they stormed that building telling themselves they were doing something great and important, vital to democracy – in fact, they were just angry that they hadn’t gotten their way. Which is how democracy works. You don’t always get what you want. And the fact that they wanted four more years of ugliness, rage, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, antisemitism–all the isms; that they felt entitled to visit that on the rest of us for another four years, just fuelled my own rage.

How does it feel to be taking the show to London following your Edinburgh success?

This still feels very surreal. There are so many people who have been a party to making this happen and who said yes… I don’t even know where to begin. It’s kind of a dream come true. You want to make your mark. To get a chance at that – in London of all places – after the incredible experience in Edinburgh just kinda blows my mind.

Have you resisted the urge to tweak the play between Edinburgh and London?

I have. I discovered a couple of places where the play could be sharpened literally the day we got to Edinburgh–things I think I’d considered during the L.A. run that I finally had the words for, but except for something that happens after the play ends, it hasn’t changed at all.

Is there anything you hope audiences take away from the show?

My hope is that audiences question assumptions and biases when they come out of the play. Racism to me is a kind of violence; it comes from violence, and a violence that comes from someplace deep – from deep wounds that are not unfamiliar to most of us. I hope audiences want to wrestle with that familiarity.

Blue runs at Steven Dials Playhouse from 5 to 30 March 2024