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Review: Navigating the Murky Waters of 'Blue' at the Seven Dials Playhouse

Rated 🍯🍯🍯


Two individuals stand around a table, one appears to be questioning the other, and a recording device rests on the table. It appears to be a police interrogation.
Production image of Blue at Seven Dials Playhouse. Photo credit: Laurie Sparham

At its core, "Blue" stages an intense confrontation between Los Angeles Police Detective LaRhonda Parker and an officer entangled in the shooting of a Black motorist. This officer is not only a colleague but a fragment of Parker's personal world, being a family friend and her husband’s ex-partner. The play unfurls as an interrogation, yet it is the undercurrents of personal history, racial dynamics, and the quest for truth that embroider the fabric of this narrative. The complexity of these relationships introduces a multifaceted storyline that, while intellectually stimulating, challenges the audience to open and close several mental drawers during the 60-minute runtime.


Blue's Interrogation of Racial Prejudices

One of the play's ambitious undertakings is its moral exploration of racial profiling juxtaposed with a murder mystery that unravels in a manner both innocuous and alarming. This parallel narrative ambitiously seeks to dissect the psychology of racism, particularly through the lens of the accused officer, whose actions and justifications are thrust under a microscope. However, the portrayal of such a heavy and nuanced subject matter sometimes veers towards overt exposition, sacrificing the subtlety needed to truly delve into the roots of racial bias and its manifestations in society. The bee observed a missed opportunity for a deeper, more nuanced exploration of the motivations driving racism, beyond the surface-level depiction provided.


Delving Deeper: The Complexity of Racism and the Precarious Balance of Justice

The exploration of the accused officer's motivations in "Blue" raises poignant questions about the nature and roots of racism. The character's involvement in the Capitol Hill riot and the subsequent exposition of his reasons for participating aimed to shed light on his psyche, intending to evoke a visceral response from the audience. However, this portrayal risked simplifying a complex issue into a caricature of villainy, devoid of the nuanced exploration that such a deeply rooted societal problem deserves.


Racism, as the bee sees it, is not merely a product of overt hatred but often stems from a mélange of fear, misunderstanding, and a sense of threatened identity or lost opportunity. The play's approach, by choosing to highlight only the extremities of the character's beliefs, missed an opportunity to delve into the subtleties of how everyday biases and systemic structures contribute to radicalization. A more nuanced portrayal could have offered a deeper understanding of the character’s journey towards such extreme views, inviting the audience to reflect on the broader societal conditions that nurture such ideologies.


On the theme of finding evidence of wrongdoing, "Blue" touches on a profound truth about the human condition and the judicial system's attempt to navigate it. The notion that diligent enough scrutiny can reveal flaws in anyone speaks to the inherent imperfection of humans. This idea, when applied within the context of fighting racism, introduces a complex dilemma. The bee contemplates the play’s suggestion that in the zealous pursuit of justice, there's a risk of overcorrection, where actions devoid of prejudiced intent can still be interpreted through the lens of racial bias.


This observation offers a critical examination of the "innocent until proven guilty" principle, highlighting the subjectivity and potential arbitrariness in the evidentiary process, especially in cases charged with racial undertones. While "Blue" firmly establishes the guilt of the white officer, it opens a dialogue on the fragility of proving innocence or guilt within a system that struggles to balance prejudice and objectivity. This exploration serves as a mirror to societal efforts to dismantle racism, cautioning against the pendulum swinging too far in either direction, thereby undermining the very justice it seeks to uphold.


Emotional Intensity

The character of Detective Parker stands out as a beacon of professional integrity and emotional complexity. As a Black female officer interrogating a white suspect, her role adds a layer of depth to the narrative, inviting the audience to navigate the turbulent waters of race, justice, and personal loyalty alongside her. Her professionalism, juxtaposed with moments of raw emotional vulnerability, offers a compelling study of the human condition when placed in situations of intense moral and ethical conflict.


The play reaches its zenith in an emotionally charged confrontation that tests the limits of the audience's engagement. This intensity, while powerful, occasionally demands a mental respite to process the flurry of emotions and themes being explored. The bee found itself momentarily retreating to regain composure, a testament to the play's ability to evoke a profound emotional response.


Final Thoughts

"Blue" emerges as a memorable theatrical experience that dares to tackle the entwined realities of race, justice, and human connection. Its ambition, however, is both its strength and its Achilles' heel, as it endeavours to encapsulate a multitude of narratives within a constrained timeframe. This results in a play that is rich with potential yet struggles to maintain a coherent focus throughout.


In the end, "Blue" leaves its audience with more questions than answers, a deliberate choice that underscores the complexities of the issues it seeks to address. It is a play that will undoubtedly appeal to those drawn to morally complex narratives and the exploration of systemic issues through the intimate lens of personal relationships. Despite its narrative congestion, "Blue" commands attention for its bold thematic ambitions and the raw, unfiltered emotional landscapes it traverses.


The bee, buzzing with thoughts provoked by the play, awards "Blue" three stars — a reflection of its impactful yet tumultuously executed exploration of themes that resonate in today's sociopolitical climate.


 

Watched March 2024 at the Seven Dials Playhouse, London. Blue is running until 30 March 2024.

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