An Interrogation - Edinburgh Fringe 2023
A police interview room. A blank room, two chairs, a water cooler on top of a carpet. The actors use the door to the stage as the door to the interview room. Two surveillance cameras are set up and pointing in the direction of where the detective and interviewee will sit. We later learn there are additional cameras under the table and we – from time to time- watch each person’s hands as they talk. These images are projected on a white screen behind the table. I am thinking this will be like the now famous “glass box” scenes from “Line of Duty” – after all theatre is in real time and on that TV program they make it look as if the critical interviews are too. “An Interrogation” a debut play by UK writer and director Jamie Armitage promises much but falls short at the finish.
A woman has been abducted and the situation bears similarities to a case occurring a few months earlier. As police race frantically against the clock to locate the latest victim before it is too late, an ambitious young detective is convinced that someone who is seemingly beyond reproach – a respectable businessman and charity supporter – may know more than it would appear. Her boss is unconvinced, but as the businessman agrees voluntarily to speak to the police, the senior detective allows the interview to proceed on condition the younger officer undertakes it by herself. This potentially explosive three-hander is off to a great start.
What if she's got this all wrong? But what if she's got it right?
The ensemble cast – John Macneill as senior detective John Culin, Bethan Cullinane as DC Ruth Palmer, and Jamie Ballard as businessman Cameron Andrews are uniformly excellent and attuned to the nuances and subtext of this tense scenario. The action is mainly between the detective and the citizen with the senior detective providing departmental and interpersonal context including the tensions beyond the interrogation room. The dialogue deftly reveals the nature of the crimes and the ensuing cat and mouse powerplay is everything you might expect.
But the play and production never totally deliver the spine-tingling ride it promises. There’s an inevitability to the storyline and some very clumsy staging that belies the audience’s ability to understand what is going on. To reveal that here would be a massive spoiler. To add insult the play ends with a stab at some male/female workplace dynamics which are kind of inherent in the overall world of the work. The young detective having succeeded in her quest for justice is then shown to doubt her place in this world – albeit ambiguously. It all feels apologetic, added for good measure, and not treated as a serious circumstance of the play – in fact it is possibly an entirely different play – in any case, the writer could not dramatize this theme and for that reason I am giving “An Interrogation” a thumbs down.
The bigger question is what can theatre add to our enjoyment and understanding of this kind of scene and concerns that we are not getting in spades via any streaming platform?