This being my first time attending a play at the Guild of Students, Blue/Orange directed by Georgia House and performed by the Infinity stage company was a moving and at times harrowing introduction to the University’s drama sphere. Winner of the 2011 Laurence Olivier award for best new play, Blue/Orange is written by English dramatist Joe Penhall. It follows Christopher, an NHS patient diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. The play does not shy away from challenging and highly topical issues, touching on the uncomfortable ideas of racism, mental illness and the evident shortcomings within the NHS.
The set in act one, a very basic consultation room, appears to reflect the starkness and the inhospitable (somewhat ironically) nature of the NHS. This combined with the actors’ proximity to the audience, especially those sat in the front row, allowed almost uncomfortable levels of intimacy and insight into the shocking conversations and events unfolding within the play. A wider variety of scenery throughout the play may have made it more aesthetically engaging. Although the continuous use of the bare consultation room, enabled the audience to focus solely on the dialogue of the actors which I feel was the essence of the play itself.
For me, Christopher played by Jamal Hue-Bonner, made the play what it was. His convincing portrayal of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder and his overt vulnerability was intensely poignant. His vibrancy and charisma on stage as Christopher made him likable; relatable and yet enigmatic in equal measures, especially in terms of his questionable parenthood.
Jamal’s performance as Christopher truly hit home the play’s moral message, forcing the controversial issues into the limelight with the sole focus on one individual’s mistreatment and experience. This gave the audience the chance to feel sympathy towards Christopher on an issue they could otherwise disassociate themselves from. Consultant Dr. Robert Smith played by Ciaran Creswell, I found inhabited and epitomised the role of the conservative upper-middle-class medical professional with ease. He portrayed perfectly his obvious detachment and lack of understanding of the very real problems faced by real members of society. He personified brilliantly the controversy within the NHS system by his disturbing willingness to sacrifice standard of care for cost-benefit.
Dr. Bruce Flaherty played by Ben Norris offered a stark contrast to Ciaran Creswell’s character. He made his frequent frustration and evident disapproval of Dr. Robert Smith’s unfavourable demeanour believable and tangible to the audience, almost to the point where I wanted to stand up and argue alongside him. In an otherwise hopeless situation, the character of Dr. Bruce Flaherty brought to life the plausible possibility of a new generation of medical professionals fighting against the ever-present controversy.
Having thoroughly enjoyed Blue/Orange, I would recommend to anyone to discover what the University has to offer in terms of theatre far sooner than I did. I’ll be making sure to keep a definite eye out for what the University’s drama societies are doing next.
By Elin Morris