BLUE/ORANGE: Joe Penhall
Runs: 2h 15m, one interval
(New Alexandra Birmingham, to 27.10)
Review: Alexander Ray, New Alexandra Birmingham, 24 10 12
Intriguing, funny, painful, thrilling.
Blue/Orange is now on the road, and deservedly so. It’s an intriguing, absorbing and often painful piece, strongly acted in this touring production.
The success of Penhall’s script is the complex, multi-layered nature of his debate. It’s wide ranging, but closely connected: there is a genuine debate in the medical profession about whether there is an over diagnosis of schitzophrenia within the Black UK population. Penhall examines this, but also examines the appropriateness of labelling, pigeon-holing and effectiveness of treatment. And, most importantly, stigma.
At times the arguments between consultant Robert and psychiatrist Bruce seem over-dramatic or unlikely in front of the patient (Christopher), but this is easily overlooked because it is a means of us getting, theatrically or dramatically, at the real debate. We may be tempted to think Robert (the consultant) stereotypical, but this is dangerous, I am reliably informed by people who have been involved in such treatments that they have experienced doctors like this.
All three performers are strong – so bring us the further thrill of thrilling performances from actors we feel we have grown to know through the production.
Robert Bathurst (Robert) carries a natural air of unbearable superiority. He slightly arches his back when standing, so he literally looks down his nose at others. At times we want to punch him one, but at others we are shocked to find we agree with him. Gerrard McCarthy (Bruce) brings passion to his role (a nice contract with Bathurst); that he learns to play the game brings a chilling close to the play. Oliver Wilson (Christopher, the patient), presents the frightening intensity that marks his illness; he may, consciously, wind up the doctors, but that, too, is part of his illness – and a part difficult, in real life, to take, also well demonstrated in the play. His rapid swings of mood convince, totally.
If the play is melodramatic at time, I give not a jot. It’s all worth it. Thrilling stuff.
Christopher: Oliver Wilson
Bruce: Gerard McCarthy
Robert: Robert Bathurst
Director: Christopher Luscombe
Designer: Colin Falconer
Lighting Designer: Oliver Renwick
Composer: Malcolm McKee
Sound Designer: Gregory Clarke
Costume Supervisor: Ed Parry
Assistant to the Director: Guy Unsworth
production Manager: Simon Gooding