Friday, 22 Feb 2019

Blue/Orange review – smarm, charm and raw emotion in gladiatorial mental health drama

Birmingham Repertory theatre
Joe Penhall’s play about a young black patient caught between two clashing white doctors is incendiary, intellectually rich and ever topical

When Blue/Orange was first staged almost two decades ago, its critique of a self-serving psychiatric system felt shockingly timely. Joe Penhall’s gladiatorial drama of a young black patient caught between the clashing ideologies and egos of two white doctors showed them to be led by careerism, dogma and unexamined prejudice.

That this revival feels just as topical, though for different reasons, is a theatrical achievement but also a reflection on the failings of the mental health system, especially when set against recent discussions about the disproportionate number of black people detained as inpatients.

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