Bath Voice Reviews: In Blue/Orange at the Ustinov is Chris suffering from a borderline personality disorder, is he sane or is he plain nuts? Joe Penhall’s dark comedy drama is both serious and extremely funny

Blue Orange – Michael Balogun (Christopher), Giles Terera (Robert), Ralph Davis (Bruce) – Credit Marc Brenner

Theatre Review: Blue/Orange, Ustinov Studio, Bath

James Dacre’s production of Joe Penhall’s black comedy drama Blue/Orange in Bath’s Ustinov Studio is tight, tense and taut, and an insight into the world of psychiatry. And an insight into the personal power struggles of three men trying to impose their thoughts on each other laced with much humour and wit.

Chris is about to be discharged from the hospital but must first be assessed by Bruce who in turn is assessed for his assessment by senior consultant Robert. Set in a square brightly lit space designed by Simon Kenny with lighting by Charles Balfour with only a few chairs, a water cooler and a coffee table with a fruit bowl and ash trays the triangular conversation keeps the audience glued. The dialogue constantly switches from character to character as each one seems to hold the high moral ground before being usurped by one of the others as their point of view appears if only briefly to hold sway.

Blue Orange – Michael Balogun (Christopher), Giles Terera (Robert), Ralph Davis (Bruce) – Credit Marc Brenner

Protagonist Chris played by a committed and seething Michael Balogen wants to go home. Or does he? As a patient diagnosed with borderline personality disorder he is in the hospital after doing ‘something funny’ in the market and apart from angry outbursts about the injustice and his bizarre claims to be the love child of Idi Amin or Mohamed Ali he’s no more nuts than the average psychiatrist. And the two professionals who bicker over whether he is well or not at times show empathy and times a ruthless desire to be right in their diagnosis scoring points off each other.

At the heart of the conflict is race and in particular why black men are more likely to be sectioned than white men. Language, poverty, life chances, heritage and what we see as ‘normal’ and how we articulate our thoughts are explored at length in at times hilarious dialogue and times with a seriousness often devoid from discussions of an issue that’s not gone away.

Blue Orange – Michael Balogun (Christopher), Giles Terera (Robert), Ralph Davis (Bruce) – Credit Marc Brenner

Robert played by a suitably anguished and manipulative Giles Terera twists and turns in his disagreement with consultant Bruce played with a wonderful arrogance by Ralph Davis in a battle of wills as to who has the right to use what language and decide if Chris is schizophrenic, psychotic or plain nuts.

Three men you’d probably not want to invite to your home for Welsh Rabbit or take them to watch rugby as Bruce did when he invited Robert to impress his mentor. But if you did you wouldn’t need to worry about a lull in the conversation. The trio rattle out their lines in a series of heated arguments which are overlaid with references to rugby, football, Alan Ginsberg, Tin Tin and the down-side of living in White City. Fast, funny and questioning about who in 21st Britain is actually sane.

Harry Mottram

The play runs to Saturday, November 13, 2021

Tickets and more information visit https://www.theatreroyal.org.uk/event/blue-orange/

Harry Mottram is the news editor of Bath Voice monthly magazine covers news, views, reviews, previews and features as well as what’s on in Bath and events for residents in Bear Flat, Widcombe and Oldfield Park and the wider Bath area. Delivered door to door in south Bath and available in shops and supermarkets. See the Facebook site for details.

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