Blue/Orange – Joe Penhall, Birmingham Rep, 4****: Freddie Anderson


Blue/Orange: Joe Penhall


Birmingham Rep

Runs: till 16 March

Bham Rep BO: 0121 236 4455

Review: Freddie Anderson 5 March 2019

Life is never black and white, nor even blue and orange

With mental health being a hot topic in the news at the moment, Birmingham REP presents this challenging and insightful production at a perfect time. We are introduced to a raised square meeting room, which nearly all the action takes place on, piercing the auditorium and making us feel as if we are observing a doctors ‘case study’ already. The play does a good job at putting us in the mindsets of the characters involved and you may be left with a perplexed ignorance at what just happened in front of you.

With clinical plastic chairs and bland grey carpet Hankin sure knows how to make us gulp at the resemblance of a hospital. It’s also difficult to avoid the double doors, back and centre, allowing us to be constantly reminded that the exit is always in sight. Although these loom over us like the Sphinx in Never ending story, the gateway to somewhere else, I feel Bailey muddies the clarity of this element in the second act.

Despite this Baileys direction is both bold and sensitive. His direction seems to add a texture to the atmosphere in the room, which is usually just left to the haze machine. There is nothing more electric and exciting to me in theatre than watching a person truly express the creative power coming not from their mind but their heart. Bailey provides this platform perfectly to the cast. In particular Ivan Oyik delivers poignance and power to his personal performance. It reminded me of watching Kenneth Cranham in The Father in this same theatre a few years ago, not somebody relishing the opportunity to show us their weaknesses, but rather fighting with all their might to hide them.

It is refreshing to watch a play that cannot be so easily sided with, where we are left with arguably three equal cases as opposed to an easy win. Nothing can be clear cut. Senior consultant Dr Robert Smith (Richard Lintern) is in one moment the cold-hearted case study scientist, followed up with a recognisable and beautifully intelligent medical professional. You just can’t disagree with him, although you can dislike him. Coombes plays the young doctor with earnest and skill. His soft approach aptly suiting an inexperienced novice shrink.

What a pleasure to be gifted such electric performances, and a production that gives so much to talk about in the bar afterwards.

Thomas Coombes – Bruce
Richard Lintern – Robert
Ivan Oyik – Christopher

Joe Penhall – Writer
Daniel Bailey – Director
Amelia Hankin – Designer
Azusa Ono – Lighting Designer
Clive Meldrum -Sound Designer
Emily Jones – Casting Director
Jack McMahon – Assistant Director

Mental health, race, and semantics. Is it always as easy as black and white, or maybe blue an


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