Adelaide Festival

Adelaide Festival Review: Blue

A tale on the weight and unstoppable nature of grief and loss

A tale on the weight and unstoppable nature of grief and loss

Presented by: Belvoir St Theatre, State Theatre Company South Australia

Reviewed: 27 February, 2024

Blue is a one-person play confronting grief, and the unstoppable, at times sometimes exciting, life changes. The play is written by Thomas Weatherall and performed by Callan Purcell in the role of Mark.

The narrative follows a monologue from Mark, beginning and ending with a letter from his mother, which we later find out is the last letter he received from her. The story immediately shifts back to Mark’s past, outlining his history and mostly the major events that impacted his life. The love of writing and classic music hits underscore Mark’s relationships, including with his brother, who was born just ten months before him, which creates an additional closeness that’s essential for the themes of depression and loss that appear later in the production.

The staging and prop design of the play is rather intriguing, even in the forceful nature of the design that doesn’t so much hint at what’s to come but bluntly shows. The entire play is set on a textured, grey curve that constantly looms in the background as a wave that is ready to crush down at any moment. Down the centre, sections of flooring are lifted away to reveal a step pool that neatly adds the reminder of the natural world through splashes and light reflections off the water.

The entirely grey stage and set allow for the incredible lighting and sound design to shine. The sound and light vary from subtle undercurrents to the monologuing, to building and well-executed intensity for the more dramatic moments of the play. It is through these aspects of the play that layers and immersion come through strongly.

As the name implies, Blue covers the inevitability of grief and the apparent inability to truly escape from them. There are snippets of happiness and pokes of humour slotted throughout the narrative. The monologue is a more direct storytelling experience rather than a complex demonstration of characterisation. The character of Mark holds at a regular level, at times felt as if somewhat speaking through a haze. There are a couple moments where this speeds up excitedly before plateauing again until the final crack shown toward the climax.

It is generally well-performed and solid play that touches the surface and hints of what might be beneath. Blue features and includes performance by Callan Purcell, writing by Thomas Weatherall, directing by Deborah Brown, set and costume design by Jacob Nash and Cris Baldwin, lighting design by Chloe Ogilvie, sound design and composition by Wil Hughes, video design by David Bergman, vocal coaching by Laura Farrell and Amy Hume, Dramaturg Dom Mercer, and featuring Frances Rings and Darius Williams.

Reviewed by Alex Dunkin

Photo credit: Sam Roberts

Venue: Scott Theatre, The University of Adelaide,  Kaurna Country
Season: 23 February – 16 March 2024
Duration: 1hr 20mins (no interval)
Tickets: $39-$85

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