Joe Penhall’s new play, which had a sell-out run at the Royal National Theatre last year, has transferred to the West End with the original National cast. “Blue/Orange” received brilliant reviews from all the popular press last year and also went on to win the Olivier Award for Best New Play. I missed the show last year, so I was really looking forward to seeing if it really is that good. The answer is a resounding YES!!
Joe Penhall has written what will surely become known as one of the greatest plays of this time. It is morally challenging, intellectually stimulating, emotionally exasperating and has a brilliant cast that enthrals. This drama blows you away with its sharp, witty and intelligent dialogue. If only ‘all’ drama was as good as this!!
The play is set in a London mental hospital and concerns Christopher, a young black man who has been sectioned for 28 days after behaving strangely in a London park. A young doctor, Bruce, believes Christopher should be kept in the mental hospital longer, suggesting the man is a schizophrenic, but the head consultant Robert, disagrees and insists that the patient should be set free. What ensures is a battle of wills that explores medical ethics, racism, pride and ambition that ultimately leads us to question both the doctors’ motives.
The interior of the Duchess theatre has been re-configured allowing for the play to be presented in-the-round, as it was at the Cottesloe, last year. This has allowed Bill Dudley’s brilliant set design to be maintained, being a diamond-shaped boxing ring that symbolically sets the scene for the fight!!
The casting is as good as you’ll see anywhere on the London stage today. Give actors a great script and it brings out the very best in them!! Andrew Lincoln is pulsating as the young and eager ‘Bruce’. So intense was his performance his shirt was soaked at the end of the play. Bill Nighy is brilliant as the flamboyant and mesmerising ‘Robert’, and Chiwetel Ejiofor is a sensation as ‘Christopher’.
This is what the popular press had to say about the transfer ... BEN DOWELL for THE STAGE says, "Superbly acted in the round, it loses nothing of its combative, subtle power...." NICHOLAS DE JONGH for THE EVENING STANDARD was not as enthusiastic for the transfer saying, "At last night's West End transfer, I was besieged by second thoughts and first doubts about its real worth." He goes on to say, "As a psychiatric melodrama, with a cliffhanger's allure, Blue/Orange still works theatrical wonders. Unfortunately....I can no longer believe in the play's authenticity." BENIDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES still liked it saying, "The play is humorous and notably compassionate, yet seems scrupulously fair and balanced about subjects that range from an overburdened NHS and community care system to the relation of ethnicity to mental illness to the uses and misuses of psychiatry." DOMINIC CAVENDISH for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, "Minor cavils aside, this will most likely prove to be the best play of the year, again."
Lasting 2 hrs and 15 minutes this is a tremendous play that should not be missed!
**WARNING: There are 4 chairs on each corner of the stage which may obstruct the view of certain patrons depending on where you are sitting!!**
Production photo provided by EPO