Review: Blue/Orange

Excellent acting but an underwhelming performance: Infinity Stage Company presents Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall.


Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange depicts a young black man, Christopher (Jamal Hue-Bonner) on the brink of completing his 28 day Section 2 period in a mental institution. The play begins with his final therapy session with Dr. Bruce Flaherty (Ben Norris) who is later joined by the much older and supposedly wiser Dr. Robert Smith (Ciaran Cresswell).

The location of a basic, simply furnished office, alongside the very wordy text resulted in the play being remarkably slow and static. It is certainly the type of play I could imagine reading, as its interesting themes include race, mental health and schizophrenia, but I did not find these issues translated well onstage. This may have been a result of a very simple and unoriginal use of staging and lights, and the safe location of the Debating Hall in the Guild.

Slowness of plot aside, the acting was really impressive, particularly from Jamal Hue-Bonner, who portrayed Christopher with an endearing, childlike impatience. There were moments of both hilarious comedy and engaging tenderness in his performance that made the audience really warm to him from the beginning.

Ben Norris came into his own particularly in the second half, as he successfully illustrated the strain Flaherty was under and his ultimate breakdown. Ciaran Cresswell was fantastic in the role of Robert Smith, as he played the character initially with a comic, Dadish awkwardness before developing into a detestable antagonist whose racist comments made the audience literally cringe.

Unfortunately, the use of music in the play did not seem to work. Josh Sood’s original soundtrack was pleasant enough to listen to, but its placement within the play was unnecessarily melodramatic. Potential moments of real drama were undercut by the sudden input of jarring music that was uncalled for.
There was evidence of good direction from Georgia House in Blue/Orange, as the cast were brilliant and had good chemistry onstage. Interesting ideas and themes were displayed in the play, but ultimately because of its lack of creativity, I did not find Blue/Orange to be completely engaging and memorable.