You’d me mad to miss the gripping psychological thriller ‘Blue/Orange’ at the Baxter this February
The multi-award-winning play by British playwright Joe Penhall brings psychiatric theory and practice under scrutiny in the Baxter Golden Arrow Studio, from mid-February to mid-March.
Directed by Clare Stopford, the riveting three-hander stars Andrew Buckland (‘Scrooge’, ‘Laugh the Buffalo’, ‘Betrayal’), Nicholas Pauling (‘Death of a Colonialist’, ‘The Tempest’, ‘Amadeus’) and newcomer Marty Kintu (‘iVirgin Boy’, ‘War Horse’), with design by Patrick Curtis.
Winner of the Evening Standard Award, London Critics’ Circle Theatre Award and the 2001 Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play, ‘Blue/Orange’ craftily mixes up mental illness, with issues of race, ethnocentricity and power. It is wryly comedic; there is method in the madness as a compelling and witty battle of freedom and ambition is unleashed between the three characters.
Kintu plays a young black man, Christopher, who claims to be the illegitimate son of Idi Amin, while insisting that oranges are blue. After a month of observation in a psychiatric unit Christopher is excited to be going home. But the young registrar Bruce (played by Pauling) and his mentor and supervisor Robert (played by Buckland) can’t agree on Christopher’s diagnosis. Is he suffering from a brief psychotic episode? Or is he suffering from the far more serious category of paranoid schizophrenia? Christopher becomes the ball in a deadly game of power between the two white men. CurtainUp described it as “a psychological boxing match in which the patient whose treatment triggers a professional disagreement between two psychiatrists becomes their punching bag.”
Dominic Cavendish from The Telegraph said, “The play treats a familiar theme – who’s mad and who’s sane? – with pulse-quickening insight and wit. It cuts to the heart of controversial questions about cultural assumptions and racial prejudice with surgical precision.”
Joe Penhall is a playwright and screenwriter who garnered several awards for his work, which include ‘Haunted Child’, ‘Some Voices’, ‘The Long Firm’, ‘Moses Jones’ and ‘Pale Horse’. He has written over 10 plays, more than five films and television adaptations of his own work – in 2005 ‘Blue/Orange’ was adapted for TV.
Productions which Clare Stopford has directed at the Baxter in recent years include Mike van Graan’s ‘Green Man Flashing’, Lara Foot’s ‘Reach’ and Ariel Dorfman’s ‘Purgatorio’. She holds a Master’s Degree and is a senior lecturer at UCT’s Drama School. “I am frequently asked why I haven’t adapted ‘Blue/Orange’ from the English to the South African context where the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of black mental patients are a large and relevant issue,” says Stopford.
“Here, our racial past and present and our conflicted notions of cultural difference or sameness make the topic of black mental health diagnosis politically fraught. I thought it could be useful to look at the issue sideways, from a different angle, and not fully in the face. In this way we can perhaps think differently or freshly about the problem. This is what Joe Penhall’s hugely articulate play does for us in South Africa. It gives us an opportunity to think about our own problems while looking at someone else’s (in this case another country’s),” adds the director.
At the Baxter in recent years Andrew Buckland has appeared in ‘Scrooge’, ‘Laugh the Buffalo’, the Baxter Andrew Buckland Festival showcasing ‘The Ugly Noo Noo’, ‘Between the Teeth’ and ‘Mistero Buffo’, and ‘Betrayal’. Nicholas Pauling was in ‘Death of Colonialist’, ‘The Tempest’, ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’, ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’, ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Amadeus’. This is Marty Kinty’s debut at the Baxter. Most recently he was one of the puppeteers on Joey the horse in the smash-hit ‘War Horse’.
* The Baxter Monday special applies for ‘Blue/Orange’, where patrons pay just R100 for a light meal and a show on February 23 and 30 and March 2 and 9, all at 7pm.
The production previews at the Baxter from February 12 to 17, opens on February 18 and runs until March 14 at 8.15pm nightly, with Monday and Tuesday performances at 7pm. There is also a matinee on Saturday, February 21 at 2.30pm.
Ticket prices range from R100 to R150 and there is an age restriction of 12 years.
Booking for ‘Blue/Orange’ is through Computicket on 0861 915 8000, online at www.computicket.com or at any Shoprite Checkers outlet. For discounted corporate, schools or block-bookings, charities or fundraisers, call Sharon on 021 680 3962, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org; or Carmen on 021 680 3993, email email@example.com.