Blue/Orange Review: Orange Is Not The Only Colour

Blue/Orange, Young Vic ★★★★☆

Franco Milazzo
By Franco Milazzo Last edited 29 months ago
Blue/Orange Review: Orange Is Not The Only Colour Blue/Orange, Young Vic 4
Orange is not the only colour: Daniel Kaluuya in Blue/Orange. Image:Johan Persson
Orange is not the only colour: Daniel Kaluuya in Blue/Orange. Image: Johan Persson

The latest revival of Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange is a real head trip. The Olivier Award-winning three-hander sees two doctors fight a titanic battle over the future of a man who claims to see blue oranges — but who really is the swivel-eyed loon here?

Is it the older consultant who desperately wants to use the patient to further his career? Or the young psychologist who, when on the losing side of an argument, would prefer to keep digging? Or the man in the middle, a possible schizophrenic who likes to use citrus fruit as some kind of ad hoc fleshlight?

Back when this play first opened in 2000, it had a starry, starry cast in a pre-Hollywood Bill Nighy, a pre-Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln and a pre-pretty much everything Chiwetel Ejiofor. Google was just a search engine, Facebook and YouTube were twinkles in the internet's eye and mobile phones were chiefly used for making calls.

In those days, most conversations were had face-to-face rather than over social media; then again, going by this play’s vicious verbal exchanges, we can see maybe why that aspect of society died out. The title is not the only colourful thing about the play and the language is frequently fruity and brutal. Tempers are lost often and fast, voices are raised and the atmosphere is occasionally pure testosterone. If you’re looking for a quiet night out at the theatre, this ain’t it.

On the other hand, the core issues underlying this Matthew Xia-directed Blue/Orange are timeless. Ambition, racial tensions, medical ethics, social climbing, the downright silliness of rugby — none of that has disappeared in the last 16 years and is not likely to any time soon. It is easy to see why this play has won the awards it has but its script is starting to look a little dated around the edges.

It's hard to feel sympathy for any of the characters, truth be told, but, as with a farce, there’s a guilty pleasure in seeing how these characters’ fortunes fluctuate. David Haig plays senior consultant Robert to perfection, bringing out the angry frustrations and cunning avarice of a man who sees his colleagues and patients as stepping stones to a professorship. Luke Norris as his exasperated acolyte Bruce does bug-eyed bluster well but fails to convince in the quieter moments.

Daniel Kaluuya is the main man here, though. He doesn’t get all the best lines but he does have a role which is a gem to explore. His Christopher is as unstable as a three-legged chair but Kaluuya never goes full retard and the rare glimpses of the man beneath the masks and the madness are utterly heartbreaking. That Blue/Orange remains a memorable and vital work is largely down to his incredibly engaging performance.

Blue/Orange continues at the Young Vic, 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ, until 2 July. Tickets are £10-£35 with a limited number of discounts for each performance. More information can be found on the Young Vic website. Londonist attended on a complimentary press ticket.

Last Updated 28 May 2016