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Blue/Orange


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A: Joe Penhall Pf: 2000, London Pb: 2000 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Consulting room of London psychiatric hospital, 1999 C: 3mChristopher, an obstreperous black youth of 24, has been sectioned for 28 days for some unnamed delinquency and is now due for release. Dr Robert Smith, a senior consultant in his fifties, diagnoses Borderline Personality Disorder and wants him to be cared for in the community: ‘maybe he's a right to be angry and paranoid and depressed and unstable’. The young Dr Bruce Flaherty, however, diagnoses Paranoid Schizophrenia, especially when Christopher thinks that oranges are blue and that he is the son of Idi Amin. That evening, Christopher tells Robert that he is now afraid to go home, because he is in fear of his life from police, skinheads, and people who know who his father is. Robert insists that he will be better off at home and that, if he stays in hospital, he will become institutionalized. Robert is particularly concerned that Bruce's diagnosis is ‘ethnocentric’ and does not take Christopher's racial background into account. The following morning, Bruce finds that he is being investigated for incompetence and a racist attitude (quoting Christopher, he had used the phrase ‘uppity nigga’). Bruce pleads with Christopher and with Robert to withdraw the complaint, accuses Robert of exploiting Christopher's illness for his research, and loses his temper with Christopher. Christopher is sent home, Bruce attempts a reconciliation with Robert, but Robert sacks him.

A: Joe Penhall Pf: 2000, London Pb: 2000 G: Drama in 3 acts S: Consulting room of London psychiatric hospital, 1999 C: 3m

Using skilfully observed dialogue, Penhall explores several themes: racial attitudes, mental illness, care in the community, and medical hierarchies. While the focus is principally on the question of colour (hence the title) and its relationship with a paranoia that may well be rooted in the real experiences of ethnic minorities, the play also subtly explores the changing personal relationships between the three men, the establishment of trust and its painful destruction.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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