Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Review Blue/Orange

by Joe Penhall


Imagine a world where the police detain a citizen without trial and any crime committed and then wash their hands of him or her. Where the detainee is transformed into a patient and  handed over to doctors and a hospital ward which, in the words of Joe Penhall's Blue/Orange, is effectively "a prison".

Where self-regulation rules, opinions rather than proof are regarded as evidence, where medicine is turned into a tribal greasy pole and patients are blank canvases used to support the ambitions and aims of consultants. And it seems from Penhall's piece the doctors to preserve the illusion hide from the detainee that their ability to keep the citizen can be overruled by tribunal after 28 days.

Welcome to the world of the section.

Except watching senior consultant Robert (David Haig), his junior Bruce (Luke Norris) manoeuvre and debate over black detainee Christopher (Daniel Kaluuya) as to shall-he-stay? or shall-he-go?, TLT and her own compos mentis companion were not so sure.

For Christopher, who seems to incorporate at various times all the different opinions, more than tinged with racial bias, of the medics as regards types of patients, comes from the "White City" estate, was picked up for "acting funny" - those seeking to break into TV comedy, watch out - in Shepherd's Bush market.

Ok, he also believes he is the natural son of "Butcher of the Bush" Idi Amin but if it's a  delusion (who knows when nobody seems to need any proof except opinion), it's a harmless one. Only once is mention of suicide brought up and we're never quite sure if it's convenient for the records or if he really has suicidal thoughts. 

As the consultants talk and behaviour grows more and more outrageous and crude, something began to dawn on your intrepid twosome. For surely the consulting room in the square designed by Jeremy Herbert, surrounded by the audience who entered through a basement National Health Service waiting room which could still be seen, at times, through gaps in the stage.beneath, could stand for any national institution?

Mentions of the property boom, institutionalised racism, sporting fixtures with the vagueness surrounding the section all segued nicely into our own theory about this play. Hey, we may not have a book deal like manipulative consultant Robert, with David Haig channelling by increments his own inner God/Jesus/Archbishop complex,  but we definitely can publish!

For it doesn't seem as if you need the inmates taking over the asylum when you have these docs who all seem to have their own lawyers as well for extra insurance.

But hang on a moment, Shepherd's Bush, White City, the market, could playwright J Penhall Esq in his 2000 play possibly be talking about another institution, now again on the brink of yet another major upheaval? :o No, surely not?!

Anyway director Matthew Xia keeps the more subtle and the nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw balls expertly in the air at the same time and the three-strong cast show, in the words of Marx (Groucho and Chico, that is) 'Sanity Clause, Sanity Clause, there ain't no Sanity Clause'! So we promote Blue/Orange to a big bucks TLT apple green light

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