By Thomas Weatherall. Director: Deborah Brown. Belvoir St Theatre Upstairs. 14-29 January, 2023
Reviewed : January 19, 2023*
When Thomas Weatherall’s agent advised him to “just start writing, Tom” she probably realised much more vividly than Tom himself just how clearly he would be able to translate his thoughts and feelings into words – and just how vividly he would be able to articulate them on the stage. Deborah Brown saw this on her first reading of that writing that has become Blue.
“Here was a writer that struck a chord with me, deep inside. Blue resonated not only as a script but also as a piece of music. It evoked the dancer in me and from that I knew I wanted a team that could ground themselves in the poetry on the page but also allow the audience to be in the mind of our lead character, Mark.”
Brown directs Weatherall himself as Mark – a young man looking back on the events and people that have shaped his life thus far. He shares good things, sad things; moments of harsh realisation juxtaposed with beautiful moments of acceptance and love. Moments that ebb and flow like the sea that has been so central to his life, eventually settling into a rhythm that is calming and acknowledging.
With Brown’s guidance, Weatherall plays those moments thoughtfully with a mature understanding of the significance of pause and pace in good story telling. He gives his character – and the audience – time to consider and digest a thought, or a feeling. But just enough time. He realises the need to keep moving, the importance of balance. He shares Mark’s feelings honestly, but not too explicitly or indulgently, trusting his audience, honouring their intelligence and empathy.
Hearing the same “music” as Brown, designers Jacob Nash and Chris Baldwin have created a beachscape with a huge wave that billows high behind the shoreline that is the stage. Here, alone, Mark finds a place of safety where he can tell his story. Lighting design Chloe Olgilvie and video designer David Bergman – along with composer Wil Hughes – use that wave to echo and enhance Mark’s words, turning it into a crashing surf, a swelling ocean, a gentled incoming tide. Or, conversely a sunlit space that reflects and refracts slight movement on still water – just as Mark’s life will settle a little and allow him to move on.
Tom Weatherall has proved himself on the small screen as basketballer Malakai in the reboot of Heartbreak High, as the empathetic teenager Darren Yates in RFDS or in the ABC series All My Friends are Racist and Deadlock. On the stage he is even more impressive. There’s the same sincerity, the same slight rawness, but he’s there in person, finding the depth of the character he created under the guidance of a director who realises too clearly the double talent of the young man with whom she works.
Blue may be regarded by some as a coming-of-age story. If so, it’s a harsh story, one that is very real – but it’s told with love, and thoughtfulness; with humour, and a poetic rhythm that transforms beautifully on to the stage in the hands of this fine, young performer.