The ocean can be beautiful and cruel, calming and joyous, peaceful and wild. For Mark (Thomas Weatherall, writer and sole-performer), the ocean is all of those things at once.
The 80-minute play starts with Weatherall, alone on the Upstairs Belvoir St Theatre, eclipsed by Jacob Nash and Cris Baldwin’s wave-shaped set design. Projected onto the wave is David Bergman’s video design which artfully captures the peacefulness and power of the ocean. Amongst this oceanic imagery, Weatherall looks utterly alone, which is apt. Blue is about a boy who feels deeply, and suffers deeply.
In some aspects, Mark’s experiences are universal, and audiences of all walks of life will relate to him. He’s falling in love, moving out of home, and dealing with the way his relationship to his parents changes as he enters adulthood. Unfortunately, he’s also experienced traumas that disconnect him from his peers. Mark struggles to live a ‘normal’ life while reckoning with his depression, and the sense that there is an unbridgeable gap between him and his peers who haven’t faced loss the way he has.
Thomas Weatherall has made one of the most impressive playwrighting debuts I’ve seen in recent memory. He writes with a maturity well beyond his age and puts difficult feelings into words with understated sophistication. In the play’s lighter moments, his performance is naturalistic and charming, as he invites you in with the intimacy of a one-on-one conversation. In darker moments, he manages to rip your heart out without his performance or writing ever feeling heavy-handed.
Director Deborah Brown demonstrates full faith in the power of Weatherall’s writing and performance through her simple and elegant staging. The ocean holds a lot of powerful memories for Mark, both good and bad, and Brown and her design team brought the ocean to the fore visually, in thoughtful and creative ways. Bergman’s restrained but powerful video design created some of the most memorable moments of the piece, and I loved how Nash and Baldwin integrated the ocean into their set design.
Blue floored me. The past few days I’ve spent thinking about this play, I haven’t been able to find one flaw or thing I would do differently. The entire creative team, and particularly Weatherall and Brown, should feel incredibly proud of what they have achieved. They have set the bar extremely high for 2023 theatre, and I look forward to seeing if anyone else can top it.