In a surreal, part-comic part-profound drama of ideas, Churchill renders Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish into an intelligent, entertaining play about state control. Vidocq is the trickster who is made Chief of Police, his criminal methods making him the very best of detectives. Lacenaire, an ineffectual poet-criminal, is made into a celebrity while the regicide is hidden out of sight. Pierre, adjusting the black and red ribbons on a scaffold for maximum educative effect, dreams of a Garden of Laws where every punishment for every crime is displayed to frighten the population into obedience. But the seed is sown when Jeremy Bentham shows Pierre that surveillance is much more disconcerting than spectacle.
Softcops gives a strange, amusing, powerful life to the history of punishment. The play was first presented in 1984 at the Barbican Pit, London.