Burning Blue

Previewed 15 July 1995, Opened 25 July 1995, Closed 7 October 1995 at the Haymarket Theatre Royal
Transferred 19 October 1995, Closed 2 December 1995 at the Ambassadors Theatre

David M W Greer's acclaimed new play Burning Blue in London for a strictly limited season

The US Navy. Believing that their presense is a threat to national security, government agents are sent in to a navy unit to uncover any homosexuals. Based on Greer's own experiences in the US Navy.

The original West End cast featured Antony Edridge as 'Lieutenant Dan Lynch', Robert Bogue as 'Lieutenant Matt Blackwood', Ian FitzGibbon as 'Lieutenant Will Stephensen', Martin McDougall as 'Lieutenant Charlie Trumbo', Tim Woodward as 'Special Agent Cokely', Tony Armatrading as 'Special Agent Jones', Katherine Hogarth as 'Susan Stephensen' and Helene Kvale as 'Nancy Spencer / Tammi Blackwood'

Directed by John Hickok with designs by John Napier, lighting by David Hersey and sound by Nick Gilpin.

This production was first seen at the King's Head fringe theatre in North London in March / April 1995 with a slightly different cast.

"D. M. W. Greer's Burning Blue is actually a very good, sharply written liberal drama that attacks the modern McCarthyism that hounds service personnel because of their sexuality. Greer focuses on four trainee test pilots aboard an American aircraft carrier. They enjoy a close friendship which comes under merciless scrutiny when a naval investigator discovers that two of them - Lynch and Blackwood - have been seen dancing together in a gay disco. The special agent's tactics are eerily reminiscent of those used in the anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950s. He asks the men's naval colleagues to testify against their friends. He pretends that confessions have been made. And he pursues Lynch, in particular, who is the son of the commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet, with a rabid, purblind, hysterical intensity. Greer's chief point, admirably made, is that the US military is under threat not from gay personnel but from the kind of divisions encouraged by prurient investigators... Based on fact, the play makes a direct appeal to the liberal conscience, tells a gripping story in swift, short scenes and is written with a good deal of lightness and wit... It is also staged with hurtling speed by John T. Hickok and well designed by John Napier." The Guardian

"At one point in Burning Blue, David Greer's gripping play about a gay witch hunt in the US navy, the wife of one of the fighter pilots under suspicion challenges the special agent. Why bother, she asks, after all, homosexuality is no longer a crime in the country. He fells her with a triumphant smile: 'We're not talking about the US, we're talking about the US navy'. Based on personal experience, Greer's explosive piece takes us into an arena where homophobia is not only still practised but enshrined in the rule books. The play is powered by a bitter rage that gives it a raw appeal and carries it off on the much larger stage of the Theatre Royal - despite the fact that, as a piece of writing, it leaves a great deal to be desired. Greer tells a good story and deals with important issues, but his style keeps the play from sounding the depths... Greer writes as if for a blockbuster movie - pithy dialogue, big emotions, a switchback structure that becomes unwieldy, characters that are periously stereotypical and great dollops of melodrama and sentimentality. It is seductive and frustratingly superficial... On John Napier's cool, adaptable set, John T. Hickok seizes on what is good in Greer's play, matching its wit, speed and suspense with a highly charged, slick production." The Financial Times

"Part buddy-drama, part expose of latter-day McCarthyism, the piece is strongly felt but sometimes clunkily written and awkwardly put together. Someone sneaks on the married Matt and the engaged Dan, who have spent a night dancing together in a gay club. As a result, Tim Woodward's Special Agent Cokely, unwillingly helped by Tony Armatrading's Special Agent Jones, relentlessly pursues him, his chums and their wives for evidence of sodomy. Greer suggests towards the end that Cokely is motivated by class envy as well as homophobia; but that is just a gesture towards making extreme behaviour credible, for Greer is not into deep analysis of the human psyche. Still, his play grips even as it spasmodically hops and jerks across a stage that John Napier has furnished with institutional chairs and bunks backed by a lowering grey-steel wall... John Hickok's strong cast beguiles you into overlooking second-hand lines and Greer's confusing and amateurish handling of a key death." The Times

Burning Blue in London at the Haymarket Theatre previewed from 15 July 1995, opened on 25 July 1995 and closed on 7 October 1995, transferred to the Ambassadors Theatre on 19 October 1995 and closed on 2 December 1995