Although my incessant squirming throughout the show because I find the seats at the Ensemble profoundly uncomfortable (and I probably have ADHD), Joe Penhall’s ‘Blue/Orange’, directed by Anna Crawford, is a very engaging examination of the bureaucracy of psychiatry and the relationships and consequences of those who practice and fall victims to it.
‘Blue/Orange’ starts with an excited Christopher (Dorian Nkono), about to be released after a 28 day stint in mandatory psychiatric care against his case worker’s advice, Bruce (Ian Meadows) and thus begins a conflict with his supervisor Robert (Sean Taylor). Politics abound and status shifts see us embroiled in not only questioning Christopher’s mental health but the sordid power-plays of those meant to be caring for the mentally ill. It’s a damning reflection on medical and office economics, authority, factionalism and an interesting form of psychological warfare.
This is a strong cast and they deliver Penhall’s script with professional ease. Crawford allows the humour and nuance to emerge amongst the satire and drama of the unfolding events. The beautiful interplay between Meadows and Taylor as their relationship turns sour and dimensions of character escalate as we see them journey from professional discussions into professional assassination. Nkono’s Christopher also finds a grounding in his energy and focus that allows his actions and character to show great conviction and make us question the nature of his illness and let us dance on the precipice of diagnosis until the play’s natural conclusion allows us to swing more definitely in one direction.
There is plenty of tension in this wordy play and yet each phrase captures the essence of action inherent in the intentions of each character. Tobhiyah Stone Feller’s set, especially expressed in the ink blot style Rorschach test, glowing with a blue/orange hue from Christopher Page’s lighting design (see what they did there- clever indeed) thrusts us into the psychology of this play and to place our own symbolic meaning on its context and what we see when we look at the visual world of the mise-en-scene provided to us in that moment.
‘Blue/Orange’ should be another crowd pleaser for Ensemble and this one has plenty of substance and appeal and is backed up by a great production in cast, design and direction. If you haven’t made the trip to the Ensemble yet this year, this is the one to get to. No test required and no mandatory detention or therapy needed post show.