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  • Writer's pictureHinton Magazine

Edinburgh Fringe Fest - BLUE

Inspired by tragic events in America surrounding George Floyd’s death and the Capitol riots, US based writer and actor June Carryl is bringing her unflinching, gritty drama BLUE to the Edinburgh Fringe. Examining the very real and current issues surrounding policing both in the UK and in the States, this is June’s response to the deaths of citizens - overwhelmingly often black citizens - at the hands of those in a career which is supposed to ‘protect and serve.’

Main character LAPD Detective LaRhonda Parker has huge life changing decisions to make as she investigates a friend and colleague who has shot an unarmed black man at a traffic stop.

We sat down with June and asked her to give us some insight into her process for writing and performing BLUE and what she hopes it achieves at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Your show deals with a pretty significant cultural topic – policing in the UK and the US – tell us what kind of issues are tackled in BLUE?

BLUE tackles the issue of racism in policing. It is also a conversation about the authoritarian impulse at the heart of the January 6th riot at the US capitol and how the two are connected. Finally, it is a tragedy, a play about the loss of a years' long friendship.

Why did you decide to write/perform this show?

I knew I would write a play soon after George Floyd's murder in 2020. It had happened so often but there was something about the blank stare of his murderer at the camera in that infamous photo as he caused pain and finally crushed the life out of this man that I couldn't shake. I wrote one poem, then another. Then the riot happened in January 2021 and the play found its voice. The two are inextricably linked in my mind: the sense of entitlement at the heart of the riot dovetails entirely with the authoritarian impulse that I think lies at the heart of policing as conceived in the US. There is the entitlement to do with Other bodies as you will on the one hand and the demand for obeisance to the will of the disgruntled on the other. People who hold the view that Trump lost may believe it literally to be true; but I think it is more conceptual than anything. It is the loss of their America that they decry: their right to be racist and homophobic and all the rest of it and they are intent on inflicting their way on the rest of us. And if we don't obey, bring out the nooses. I was invited to join a workshop at Echo Theater in Los Angeles a couple months later and that was that.

Did you have to undertake a lot of research for the script?

I watched a lot of LAW & ORDER coming up, so basically, just way too much television. I did need to research how officer-involved shootings are investigated in order to make sure the play was accurate. I talked to the police and to a lawyer from Chicago. To my great relief, a law enforcement officer came to the show a couple of weeks ago and said I got it right; as did some folks from the ACLU, so again that was a relief.

Is there a huge crossover of similarities in policing issues in America and the UK?

There are differences, certainly, but, for example, I was sent an article about policing in the UK and issues with racism and sexism in policing, as revealed in the Sarah Everard case of the policeman found guilty of kidnap, rape, and murder, so sadly, there is a good deal of similarity. There was also a show, PRIME SUSPECT in the 90s, that tackled those issues from within - Helen Mirren taking on the boys after climbing the ranks. In the US, the institution of policing sprang from the slave patrols, which evolved into the militia groups which enforced the Black Codes and later the Jim Crow laws. You cannot separate American policing today from the policing specifically of Black bodies and it shows. Training emphasizes an us-versus-them mentality. "We" the police are outsiders to the communities we serve, and "they" are a threat to "us." Tyree Nichols' death demonstrated that you don't even have to be white for this to be so. The police are literally opposed to the communities they're meant to serve. Whereas in the UK, policing pre-existed the introduction of large-scale Black and Brown communities within, so issues of class, I suspect had more influence initially. Still, that "the sun never set on the British Empire" meant that Black and Brown people were subjugated at home, as it were. When those communities sprang up inside of the UK, I think issues of race and class combined to create a similar divide to that in the States.

What do you hope audiences learn, or take home from Blue?

What I hope audiences come away with is self-awareness, the willingness to question their own assumptions. For a long time, people lived under the veil of illusion that the police are infallible and can do no wrong. But those same assumptions convict Black and Brown people of suspicion and guilt for just walking down the street, and very often get us killed. I, as a Black woman contend with those beliefs myself at times. When I see someone troubled my first impulse is to assume I am in danger, rather than to want to reach out. I'm not saying walk willy-nilly into harm's way, but what happens to compassion? What I hope people come away with is an interest in looking at policing differently. We are training people to be absolutely their worst selves and people are dying because of it. I hope audiences ask themselves whether the people the institution attracts in its current form are good for the institution and whether that institution is good for them. We need a new model. I don't what it looks like, but I know the current one is not survivable.

Blue will be performed at 5.05pm in Assembly George Square (The Box) from2nd – 28th August (Not 9th)



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