Profound theatre – and prodigious talent
By Bradley Storer
After a stunning debut with their acclaimed production of The Laramie Project, Mockingbird Theatre Company continues their winning streak with a smaller-scaled but equally impressive showing of Joe Penhall’s Blue/Orange. This three-person play provides fantastic opportunities for the skilled actors of the company in its complex exploration of themes of mental illness, racism, colonialism and culture.
The plot is focused on the diagnosis and treatment of a young African man under two psychiatrists with opposing approaches to mental illness. Kane Felsinger as the institutionalized Christopher is phenomenal, dispatching the play’s fierce Mamet-like dialogue with ferocity while never letting us forget the real emotional pain underneath his at times off-putting persona. Christopher, diagnosed continually as sitting somewhere in ‘the borders between psychotic and neurotic’, draws both his doctors and the audience through the blurry boundaries between delusion, deception and uncertainty.
Richard Edge as Robert, the older and more pragmatic psychiatrist, embodies a man who is characterized mainly by his own mediocrity alongside surprising vitality. This man, who at first attempts to downplay and normalize Christopher’s disorder before endeavouring to exploit it as fodder for his own academic gain, seems like that archetypal charismatic and slightly sociopathic career-climber we encounter in every kind of field, instantly recognizable and creepily personable. Christian Heath as Bruce, Christopher’s younger and more compassionate psychiatrist, provides a strong moral and emotional centre to the story which anchors events amongst flurries of academic debate and cultural abstraction.
The three actors are all equally brilliant, and director Chris Baldock has done a fantastic job of choreographing them into shifting patterns of empathy and aggression which make them simultaneously sympathetic and antagonistic. Even as the two doctors aim to heal Christopher his mental illness becomes simply another instrument in their battle, echoing the marginalization and exploitation of ethnic and social minorities in patriarchal Western culture which continues even today.
A wonderful and thrilling night of contemporary theatre meditating on grand macrocosmic themes, but with the aid of magnificently talented actors never leaves behind the confusion and painful reality of everyday life.
Dates: Thur 28 Feb – Sat 2 March 8pm, Sun 3 March 5pm, Tue 5 March – Sat 9 March 8pm, Sat 9 March at 2pm
Venue: Broken Mirror Studios, 2c Staley St, Brunswick
Tickets: Bookings available here