StageScan Pick: Blue/Orange

Blue/Orange at the Young Vic received mixed positive reviews from the pros, with a 4.0-star average. Aleks Sierz (Arts Desk), among the five-star reviewers, typically declared Joe Penhall’s play “a contemporary classic” which “fizzes with ideas as well as emotions”.

Henry Hitchings (Evening Standard),  among those admittingsome of the references have dated” nevertheless praised a “fierce and timely revival” retaining its “psychological acuity”.  Andrzej Lukowski (Time Out)  thought a “canny decision to amplify and exaggerate” had made it feel “less era-specific” and agreed: “It hasn’t lost its bite”. Hitchings praised “a blandly institutional set” reached by the audience via “grim corridors” which Sierz found “Kafkaesque… disorienting, and slightly dismal”. Dominic Cavendish (Telegraph) was among those hailing “faultless” design.

Most found all performances “tremendous” or  ”impressive”. Cavendish said: “In all the stagings I’ve seen, I haven’t encountered a better trio.”

Sierz enjoyed David Haig’s “study in power” and felt “he really comes into his own in the more passionate passages”.  Cavendish judged him needle-sharp” as a senior medic. Lukowski found the fact “he makes no effort to play Robert with a straight face” both “really funny” and “political” explaining: “Where the character originally felt like a manifestation of New Labour’s propensity for ethical doublethink, now he feels like an embodiment of Cameron’s Conservatives – paying lip service to compassion for the vulnerable while brazenly doing the opposite.”

Sierz felt Luke Norris played his junior with “quietly convincing sincerity” and Lukowski saw him become “magnificently frazzled”.  Hitchings called their “gladiatorial struggle… electrifying” and Lukowski found the “spats… often indecently entertaining.”

There was unanimous high praise for Daniel Kaluuya’s Christopher, whom Hitchings found “bracingly charismatic”. Sierz said he “buzzes” conveying “distress, but also… exasperation, and… vulnerability”. Lukowski thought him “superb”, at first “manic bordering on euphoric” then “swerving into despair with hairpin precision”.  Cavendish found him “by turns slouching, casual, charismatic, erratic, vulnerable, fierce” as “he dances on the border between bloke next door and psycho you’d cross the street to avoid,” declaring the character “a mind-game played on our own perceptions and prejudices”.

Sierz found the whole “compelling”, a “mesmerising play… here both intellectually inflammatory and emotionally satisfying”. Lukowski agreed Xia and cast had made a “sardonic comment on another time and place feel horribly and exuberantly timeless” and Cavendish judged the production “Unmissable”.

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