Ensemble Theatre until 29 November 2014
by Joe Penhall
Photo by Clare Hawley
Having won an Olivier Award for Best New Play, a London Critics’ Circle Award and an Evening Standard Award, I had high expectations of Blue/Orange, the Ensemble Theatre’s latest offering.
Christopher is a young man who has been diagnosed as borderline neurotic/psychotic with schizophrenia. He has been in a psychiatric facility for four weeks and is due to be released.
The play opens with Christopher and his doctor, Bruce, having a chat before allowing Christopher, who looks like he has consumed way too much red cordial, out into society again. Bruce has already concluded that Christopher would be better off staying a bit longer so that he can be more thoroughly diagnosed, but the hyperactive Christopher’s leg is shaking restlessly and he is eager to escape. We suspect that Christopher has ADHD, and four weeks in the same place would have been unbearable.
The plot starts to thicken when we find out that Bruce’s superior and mentor, Robert, asserts that Christopher should be allowed to leave immediately. Robert’s ulterior motives are directly related to his promotion and his uncompleted book that will afford him greater credibility and stature.
The dynamic between Robert and Bruce reminded me of the relationship in the recently released film, Felony, in which an old, corrupt cop is challenged by a young, enthusiastic and altruistic cop who wants to be thorough and do everything right.
The interest lies in the conflict between compassionate and naive Bruce, the Machiavellian Robert and the confused Christopher who ends up being undecided as to whether he wants to stay or leave; the meat in the battle of wills sandwich.
The performers, Ian Meadows (Bruce), Sean Taylor (Robert) and Dorian Nkono (Christopher) are equally powerful and perfectly cast, and I hope that the experienced director, Anna Crawford, tightens up the long first act as the season progresses.
Thankfully, the pace significantly quickens in the second act and we end up feeling satisfied.
Review by Ron Lee, CSP