Blue Surge

Rebecca Gilman‘s 2001 play Blue Surge builds from the slightly unlikely premise of two frustrated small town policemen falling for a pair of “massage therapists” after a bungled brothel sting into a dark and gritty examination of the tensions present in American class structure.

Playing on the title of Duke Ellington’s jazz number “Blue Serge” Gilman has created a five-strong cast of characters who have most definitely been cut from rough cloth. Che Walker‘s production is set against a minimalist set from Georgia Lowe, the scenes flowing together surprisingly fluidly as cast members fight to reset the centre bench from massage parlour to home to bar to office.

Clare Latham as young prostitute Sandy brings a startling vulnerability to the role when needed with coyness and tension also present in her relationship with cop Curt (James Hillier).

Hillier is impressive as a police detective who finds himself closer to the prostitute than the artist girlfriend he intends to marry – he throws away both his domestic and professional lives in a bid to ‘save’ her.

There are strong performances too from the supporting cast: Kelly Burke as prostitute-turned-barmaid and nightmare room mate, Samantha Coughlan as Curt’s comparatively privileged artist girlfriend, and Alexander Guiney as fellow policeman, who really should be a warning to Curt – his preachy reaction to the play’s climax though apparently comes from nowhere.

As the piece draws to a close the tragedy of the individual situations becomes clear. Curt cannot understand how Sandy’s ambitions do not stretch beyond selling her body, but these down-beat lives cannot be escaped from, the oppressive reality is truly depressing.