Robert Tanitch reviews Blue/Orange at Young Vic, London SE1
I first saw Joe Penhall’s awarding-winning Blue/Orange at its premiere at the National Theatre in 2000. I enjoyed the play so much I saw it again when it transferred to the West End.
Matthew Xia’s revival confirms a modern classic. I enjoyed it as much all over again. The production is in the round and the auditorium is highly raked. The acting is excellent.
The setting is a NHS psychiatric hospital. A junior doctor and a senior consultant are battling over a young black African, who has a borderline personality disorder, the border being between the neurotic and the psychotic.
The patient (Daniel Kaluuya) may or may not be mad. He thinks oranges are blue and that Idi Amin is his father.
The doctor (Luke Norris) wants to keep him in for further treatment. The consultant (David Haigh) wants to release him into the community. Will he get his freedom? Should he get his freedom?
Where will he go if he is released? Who will care for him? Is he being released only because there is a shortage of NHS beds? Would you release him?
The consultant fears that the hospital may have made the wrong diagnosis due to cultural differences. Afro-Caribbean males are up to 12 times more likely to be diagnosed as schizophrenics than white males.
All three men have a lot to lose. The patient could become institutionalised. Or, once released, he might be re-arrested for a more serious crime. The doctor and consultant stand to lose their jobs for unprofessional conduct. The doctor is prepared to degrade himself to keep his.
It is highly unlikely that the medical practitioners would quarrel so openly and so loudly in front of their patient; but the confrontations make for good drama
Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange is the best play on the London stage and is not to be missed.