Venue: York Theatre Royal
Director: Juliet Forster
The intimate ‘studio’ space was an apt setting for exploring the inner mind, so effective in fact I was left with the perturbing thought of whether any human-being can be classified as sane.
Despite having only 3 characters and a simplistic set, within his brilliantly sharp script, writer Joe Penhall explores themes of political correctness, racism, institutionalism and Darwinism, all umbrella-ed under an over-riding analysis of Twenty First Century British life.
The brilliance of the play perhaps lies in the lack of plot and storyline. One could go as far as to argue that nothing actually happens. In short psychotherapists Bruce, (Jonathan Race) and Robert, (Michael Beckley) argue over the diagnosis of their patient Christopher, (Leekan Lawal).
The lack of action allows the audience to become entangled in the superb dialogue, which is undoubtedly the highlight of the play; fast-paced, expressive and at times enigmatic. A word of advice, take note of every detail, as a conversation often resurfaces with a far greater significance.
The actors worked well together, bouncing dialogue energetically back and forth, and the comic lines were made particularly palpable due to the close proximity of the stage to the audience. The script had a fluidity about it that led the audience on a journey omitting the need of a concrete story-line.
The characters’ stereotypes effectively contrast with one another enforcing a strong sense of identity. Robert, Bruce’s supervisor, deserves a particular mention as his flamboyant, fruity and very un-P.C. nature is, for want of a better word ‘spot on’. His guffaws and snorts, over-dramatic body movements and patronising smile gives him an air of superiority, at home in the world of Old Etonians.
However, the play climaxes in a frenzy that leaves the audience unsure of who is really in need of psychoanalysis; ironically, it is the patient that brings out the flaws of the professionals. Penall playfully creates moments at which the audience is left wondering whether the patient is ‘mad’ at all, or, whether he is just representative of the ethno-centric divisions manifest in twenty first century life.
I could not conclude without mentioning the play’s name sake, the blue (coloured) orange. The poignant centrality of the spherical object becomes increasingly apparent as the play goes on. The orange is tossed around, squeezed and eaten but most importantly, it is the object from which the madness stems; around which fantasies are created, prognoses diagnosed and weaknesses are emerge.
Blue/Orange is an excellent example of how a play, void of elaborate sets, fancy gimmicks, and an abundance of characters, can keep an audience entertained from beginning to end. But what stood out overall were the two simple things fundamental to all good drama: a solid script and good quality acting to bring it to life.