"Dark satire about mental health"
by Matthew Partridge for remotegoat on 08/07/18

Blue/Orange, written by Joe Penhall and produced by Tower Theatre, is a darkly satiric play about mental health, and medical hierarchy. Christopher (Chukwudi Onwere) has been sectioned after an incident in the stall where he works. With his 28 days confinement nearly up, and with a belief that the hospital’s oranges are blue, the only outward sign of mental disturbance, he is due to be released into a community outpatient programme. However, junior doctor Bruce (Simon Brooke) thinks that he is suffering from schizophrenia and should be kept in for further observation. His supervisor, consultant Robert (Harry Reeder), thinks that this unnecessary, triggering what gradually turns into a fight that could jeopardise both their careers.

The strength of both the play and the performance is the extent to which our sympathies shift during its course. In the first half we see Bruce as overcautious, slightly nervous and even somewhat insensitive. In contrast, Bruce’s arguments that re-sectioning Christopher would be both a waste of scarce resources and an overreaction to his understandable concern at being detained. However, in the second half it becomes much clearer that Christopher is indeed suffering from substantial and widespread delusions and that Bruce’s supposed concern for him is a sham designed to protect his academic reputation. This is aided by a commanding performance by Reeder, who is alternately charming and menacing.

Although the topic of mental health may sound more like a topic for a magazine article, this is not the dull and worthy kitchen sink drama that you might imagine, but a gripping play. Tower’s production, directed by Colette Dockery, does it full justice.

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