By Joe Penhall
Young Vic to July 2
66 The Cut,
London SE1 8LZ
7.30 (except 30 May) | Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2.30pm (except 18 May & 8 June)
Runs: 2hrs 20 mins without interval
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Discounts including under 26s (£10); free to Southwark and Lambeth residents,
phone 0207 922 2920 (Mon-Sat, 10am-6pm)
Review by: Carole Woddis of performance seen May 19, 2016:
Still powerful, still shockingly relevant
Sixteen years on from its premiere, Joe Penhall’s explosive exposé about race and mental health has, sadly, lost none of its relevance. People from a black African or Caribbean background are still disproportionately likely to be `sectioned’ – detained without their permission.
Penhall probes this situation with brilliant dramatic skill and humour zoning in not so much on his protagonist, Christopher, showing all the signs of acute, possibly schizoid disturbance but rather those treating him. In this portrait of `the politics of the madhouse’, Robert, the Consultant Psychiatrist is cast as a doctor who spouts trendy ethno-sensitive jargon but, like a latter-day Dr Strangelove, is mad, bad and very dangerous to know.
As in Bill Dudley’s original in-the-round staging in the much missed National’s Cottesloe theatre, Jeremy Herbert’s design adds intensity giving us a ringside view (this time above an `immersive’ walkway as if leading through a therapy wing). Perched above, it becomes a gladiatorial contest in David Haig’s mesmerising performance, encircling his younger colleague, Bruce, unfortunate enough to get in his way on a thesis Robert is preparing on entho-centric factors in schizophrenia.
Like a cobra squeezing its prey, Robert wears down his young associate’s well meaning arguments for detaining Christopher longer than the 28 days of his original sectioning.
Written at a time when it was fashionable – and still is – release the mentally ill `into the community’, if there is a weakness to Penhall’s set-up it is that Christopher’s side has not been heard sufficiently; as in real life, his voice is all but silenced.
Less subtle than in its original staging (by Roger Michell), or indeed Philip Osment’s recent excellent Hearing Things (at the Albany Deptford), Matthew Xia’s revival nonetheless carries a terrific punch in raising issues of dominance and political manoeuvring, seen as manifestly more important than actually helping the patient.
As the unstable Christopher, declaring Idi Amin as his father Daniel Kaluuya prowls uncomfortably, forced to the side-lines as the two white doctors `talk amongst themselves’ .
Essentially an attack on careerism and medical hierarchies, Blue/Orange will surely resonate for a whole new generation. After all, mental health now affects one in four of us.
By Joe Penhall
Robert: David Haig
Christopher: Daniel Kaluuya
Bruce: Luke Norris
Direction: Matthew Xia
Design: Jeremy Herbert
Light: Adam Silverman
Sound: Carolyn Downing
Movement: Joseph Alford
Voice: Emma Woodvine
Casting: Julia Horan CDG
Assistant Director: Michael Keyamo
Michael Keyamo is supported by the Jerwood Assistant Directors Program at the Young Vic
Blue/Orange was first performed in the Cottesloe, National Theatre, April 7, 2000
First perf of this production at the Young Vic, May 12, 2016