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 Connecting professional and amateur theatre in Newbury, West Berkshire and beyond

Progress Theatre - Blue/Orange

19th to 24th November 2007.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

Hats off to the director on his full-length debut

Blue/Orange, at Progress Theatre, Reading, from Monday, November 19 to Saturday, November 24

Whether or not you have any personal knowledge of mental illness, we live in a society where it is difficult to ignore its existence. Only last week, there was the story of a man killed by someone who later blamed his action on the fact that he is a schizophrenic.

Joe Penhall's complex script deals with the situation in which a young black man, Christopher, finds himself, after 28 days detention, as a mental health in-patient. His doctor, Bruce, is determined to keep him for longer but the consultant, Robert, is equally determined to let him go back to his community. The arguments are strenuous and very heated, and Christopher is like a ping-pong ball, batted back and forth between the two experts, neither of whom, you feel, particularly care about him as an individual, but rather as a statistic or a research opportunity.

It was a great credit to director Tony Wernham, and also to his cast, that we were able to follow the complexities of the arguments, and that they were delivered with pace and animation, using the whole of the interesting space created by the clever set, beautifully designed and lit by Mike Brand.

Chris Bertrand, on excellent form, portrayed Robert as avuncular, patronising and ultimately untrustworthy, but with an almost irresistible charm.

In contrast, Mark Simmonds, as Bruce, seemed permanently uncomfortable, shouting at his patient rather more than one would think likely to engender empathy or trust, and certainly not necessary in the space at Progress.

Newcomer Emmanuel Adanlawo played Christopher. This was a superb, sparkling performance from start to finish, whether pacing about in the consulting room like a caged animal or sitting listening to the 'experts', discussing him as if he wasn't there, or desperately trying to convince them that he has unpleasant neighbours and that his father is Idi Amin.

Tony Wernham deserves great praise for masterminding this, his first full-length show, along with producer Helen Coleman.

On this evidence, Progress should be signing him up to do more.