The Garrick Theatre, Stockport; Wednesday 10th January, 2018
Christopher has recently been admitted to a psychiatric hospital in central London, but his brief incarceration is now about to end. He’s quite a character, or is he perhaps just a little bit “mad”?
Blue/Orange is a simple yet powerful play where a bewildering assortment of perplexing issues associated with the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness are are all brought up to the boil together and then left to simmer while the audience ponders the rights and wrongs of it all.
Joseph Jacobs plays the lead role – his character is almost intimidating at first, though perhaps this perception is unfair and may be symptomatic of the general societal tendency to confront all all things connected to mental health with prejudice and fear. He fidgets a lot and seems to be very restless, constantly moving around, unable to even take a seat in a chair whilst the doctor talks to him. But, amazingly, by the end of the performance, though Christopher is still doing the same things, somehow he concludes proceedings as the more normal, rational thinking one; and that’s all down to the conduct of the bickering professionals who are attempting to diagnose and/or cure him.
Matt Todd and Martin Pritchard complete the on-stage cast as the two doctors – one a junior looking to forge his nascent medical career; the other an ageing academic far more interested in the pragmatic and financial requirement to deliver just enough health care to get the patient back on his feet.
The two doctors end up locked in a lengthy conflict, a war of attrition where neither really seems to win. Doubts are cast over the medical establishment’s own definition of what various mental illnesses actually are. This is where Blue/Orange really shines, it becomes an on-stage version of the famous Rosenhan experiments where warring American psychologists inadvertently destroyed the reputation of their whole profession in an attempt to prove themselves to each other.
This is a cleverly written play that goes a lot further than examining mental health issues, the impact of race, culture and social class are also intricately woven into the plot, and quite rightly so as mental health treatment must be the only medical discipline where the doctor arguably needs to be examined in as much detail as the patient.
Blue/Orange presents three very strong characters and it’s not clear who’s right and who’s wrong. In creating such a puzzling set of questions in the audience’s mind it goes a long way to explaining why mental health treatment is so complicated and difficult to deliver.
|Visual pleasure||Minimal use of lighting, set, props, etc. – though this is not necessarily what this play is about.||2|
|Auditory pleasure||All spoken word, in a small performance space so acoustics were fine.||2|
|Architecture & Theme||Fascinating subject matter, very thought-provoking and put across in a tantalising way. Felt a bit too long though overall.||4|
|Artistic delivery||Compelling acting performances, though there were several occasions where prompts were required due to forgotten lines.||3|
|Overall impact||Liked this show, really got me thinking about the issues portrayed and how complicated they are.||3|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|