Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

At the Sherman

Sherman Cymru- Blue/ Orange 1984 , Sherman Theatre , January 23, 2014
At the Sherman by Sherman Cymru- Blue/ Orange 1984 Back in June 2000 I had a rare free afternoon in London and was spoilt for choice. There were two new plays running at the National Theatre and I chose not to see Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange.

Fourteen years later and the Sherman Theatre allows me to redress the balance. The play is based in a London psychiatric hospital and we are directed through a side-door and led through corridors replicating that facility before sitting in a consulting room, with the actors surrounded by the audience.

Immediately we meet Dr Bruce Flaherty attempting to ascertain if he should release Christopher after his statutory 28 day detention under the Mental Health act expires. Whilst he is unsure his patient would be able to cope back in the outside world his superior Dr Robert Smith is keener to release Christopher to ease the strain on his limited resources.

At over two and a half hours (including an interval) this is a long play. With just these three actors present in an unchanging it is naturally wordy, putting a lot of strain on the actors and the audience. The onus is therefore on playwright Joe Penhall to ensure that the ideas and dialogue is riveting enough to maintain the audience’s interest throughout.

There are certainly a lot of ideas here, health care, loneliness, rivalry, mental health, belonging, community, government cuts, racism etc. This is a play that raises questions and doesn’t answer.

You will leave the theatre physically and mentally exhausted (two and a half hours on plastic seats is not always fun) but your brain will be buzzing trying to piece it all together.

I must, however, query the Sherman Theatre’s decision to start a long show at 8.00pm. The interval was at 9.35pm and when the show ended an hour later we were invited to attend a Question and Answer session. I am sure like me a lot of the audience who had to leave would
have stayed if it had occurred earlier.

There are many reasons to see this production but the main one is the rare opportunity to be so physically involved in such drama. With the rows only two deep you are never far from the visceral nature of the acting. Mathew Bulgo and Simon Mokhele (in his professional stage debut) are never less than riveting and although Craig Pinder seemed hesitant with some of his lines his “Authority” figure was mesmerizingly chilling.

In these days of dumbing down and plays getting shorter and shorter this is a increasingly rare opportunity to see a play that will challenge you physically and mentally.

The show runs at the Sherman until Thursday 23rd Jan. Rush to grab a ticket, you won’t be disappointed.


photo © Nick Allsop

Reviewed by: David Cox

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