Review: BLUE – ADELAIDE FESTIVAL 2024 at Scott Theatre, University Of Adelaide

A coming of age tale of love and loss.

By: Feb. 28, 2024
Review: BLUE – ADELAIDE FESTIVAL 2024 at Scott Theatre, University Of Adelaide
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Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Tuesday 27th February 2024.

Kamilaroi man Thomas Weatherall’s play, Blue, is directed by Deborah Brown, Senior Artist for Bangarra Dance Theatre, and features Wiradjuri man Callan Purcell as Mark, taking over the role from Weatherall who played the role for Belvoir Street. The State Theatre of South Australia production is a part of this year’s Adelaide Festival.

In a moving monologue, with bursts of dark humour, Mark, now 22, looks back and tells of his coming of age through tragedy and depression, telling of places, events, and people that had an impact on his life. He begins by referring to a letter from his mother, which he sets aside. It will be 80 minutes later before he returns to it and reads it to the audience.

Mark had a close relationship with his mother, with whom he shared a love of writing; her, a prolific but unpublished writer, and him, aspiring to be a professional writer. They spent a great deal of time together in the garden, reading and writing, with a cup of tea always close to hand. He and his slightly older brother, John, spent a lot of time at the ocean, often playing risky games. The water is a source of both happy and sad memories.

Following a tragedy, his father left, and Mark suffered deep depression. Eventually recovering, he moved out of the family home into a shared flat, where he met the other tenant, Effie, with whom he became close. He and his mother kept in touch by exchanging many letters which, in an era of mobile ‘phones and numerous electronic forms of communication, intrigued Effie.

Through it all, Mark is drawn to the ocean which acts, for him, as a sort of therapy, the blue of the ocean countering his blues, a synonym for depression.

Callan Purcell gives a sterling performance as Mark in a nuanced performance filled with a wide range of emotions, and accentuated by considerable physicality. There are moments of energetic movement, and contrasting moments of stillness, moments of joy, and moments of great poignancy. He captivated the audience from start to finish and earned the extended applause at the end.

The set and costume design is by Cris Baldwin and Jacob Nash, with a lighting design by Chloe Ogilvie, video design by David Bergman, and sound design by composer, Wil Hughes. All of these elements combine to add another integrated aspect to the performance. The set is white, a heavily textured wall rising at the rear like a cliff, becoming a wave under the projection of the ocean, aided by the sound of the waves. It is a screen for other projections and lighting effects. In the middle of the stage, revealed by removing panels, is a small pool of water, which acts as the ocean. An eclectic range of music, favourites of Mark, comes and goes.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director, Mitchell Butel, State Theatre has been turning out one success after another, lauded by critics and audiences alike, and this is no exception. Don’t miss it!

Photography, Sam Roberts.