Theatre review: Blue, Belvoir St Theatre

A monologue of a young man navigating life in all its colours.

Thomas Weatherall’s raw, heart-breaking monologue Blue is a remarkable debut. He does not shy away from life’s most challenging and painful experiences – death, heartbreak, grief, suicide – but manages to traverse these heavy subjects with such a tender vulnerability, one cannot help feeling uplifted and hopeful, despite the tears shed by many in the audience, including this reviewer.

Weatherall says his play – the result of four years of collected writings – is ‘not a cry for help, or an exercise of trauma, but more so an opening to a discourse that I truly believe so many people are in need of’, and he is right. Too often we expect answers to the big questions about what it means to be a human living on this strange spinning metallic rock. From unimaginable grief to the ecstatic rush of falling in love, he navigates the full spectrum of what it means to be alive, with courage and authenticity. There are no answers, no ‘moral to the story’, but a powerful sharing of human frailty.

Blue is not Weatherall’s own story, but ‘a very personal fiction’, as told through Mark, a young man who has been exposed to an unimaginable amount of grief and sadness, while trying to find his own way in life. Faced with his own mortality and experiencing trauma from a young age makes him ‘wise beyond his years’, but, as the play asks, at what cost?

The art of writing features heavily in this piece – writing as a personal sense-making tool, as an expulsion of feelings of almost unbearable intensity, but also writing as connection between two people, who may find it difficult to speak with the level of honesty and openness that writing affords. He tells the story of Mark with a magnetic enthusiasm and sensitivity, underscored with astute humour, even in the darkest parts of the story. Weatherall is clearly a talented writer, but his acting is also striking. The dialogue maintains a steady rhythm throughout, interrupted by unfinished sentences indicating the surfacing of memories that are just too painful to speak. He also expresses an authentic self-consciousness, wise but unsure.

The play is also, in a sense, a meditation on water. The all-white stage is shaped like a wave. Imagery of the ocean is projected onto it, while sounds of waves emerge from all around, providing a complete sensory immersion. The stage breaks up to reveal a rectangular shallow pool, which acts as a prop to support the narrative. Water is a place to sit and meditate, and to heal. The ocean is therapy – but it also has the power to take life away. The lighting, sound and set design all coalesce to create this aquatic theme. Composer Wil Hughes, set and costume designers Jacob Nash and Cris Baldwin, and lighting designer Chloe Ogilvie all work to complete the coherent vision of the performance.

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The soundtrack moves from old world tunes to subtle, minimalist, compositions. Music itself is another key theme, again represented as a sense-making and healing tool, but also as a way to connect to others without having to speak. 

Blue is a deeply moving performance from a young man who has been described as an up-and-coming-talent and Blue establishes him as an artist to be reckoned with. Many will be eagerly awaiting what comes next.

Blue written and performed by Thomas Weatherall
Belvoir St Theatre

Director: Deborah Brown
Set and Costume Designer: Jacob Nash and Cris Baldwin
Lighting Designer: Chloe Ogilvie
Sound Designer and Composer: Wil Hughes
Video Designer: Dave Bergman
Vocal Coach: Laura Farrell and Amy Hume

Dramaturg: Dom Mercer
Dramaturgical Consultant: Kodie Bedford
Associate Lighting Director: Kelsey Lee
Stage Manager: Steph Storr
Assistant Stage Manager: Sybilla Wajon
Featuring: Frances Rings, Darius Williams

Tickets: $52-$93

Blue will be performed until 29 January 2023.

Sarah Liversidge is a journalist and writer from Melbourne with various obsessions including politics, social issues and art in all its forms. She is currently completing a journalism degree at RMIT university where she is an editor at the student run publication, The Swanston Gazette.