Review: BLUETS, Royal Court

The Royal Court's new season is under way

By: May. 27, 2024
Review: BLUETS, Royal Court
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Review: BLUETS, Royal Court I wouldn’t question Bluets if I stumbled on it ensconced in a dark back room of the Tate Modern. A meandering quasi-spiritual meditation on melancholy, three intersecting monologues are spliced together in a high-tech tech fusion of live performances and cinema. Played and filmed in real time, our eyes zigzag between the stage and the screen behind it.

Adapted for the stage from Maggie Nelson’s Avant Garde poetry of the same name, an amalgamation of 240 lyrical aphorisms ruminating on the colour blue by way of Wittgenstein, Goethe, and Derek Jarman; iconoclast director Katie Mitchell is a prime candidate to bring it to life.

Renowned for her idiosyncratic brand of anti-theatre, Bluets is more experimental installation piece than a play. But all experiments test a hypothesis; it’s not clear what’s being tested here (perhaps other than our patience).

Loosely tracks an unnamed woman’s fracturing psyche post-relationship betrayal and breakup the monologue rotates in solipsistic circles. A growing obsession with blue becomes a balm to salve her emotional fracturing. Margaret Perry’s adaption gently undulates between melting mystical musings and electric sexuality and carnal longing. Icy metaphysics chills from within: mind and body are somehow linked, but the connection is elusive, inconceivable.

We wait, thumbs twiddling, for it to detonate. Around halfway through you realise the spark has fizzled out and that the technical flourishes are not means to an end, but rather the end itself: the philosophical pondering is garlanding enslaved in service of Mitchell’s “live-cinema.”

You almost feel for Emma D’Arcy, Kayla Meikle and Ben Whishaw who have the Olympic task of performing whilst stratified across stage and screen tediously fussing with props, throwing a sulky gaze into the omnipresent cameras before rushing to fiddle over something else. The space is suffocated. Wires, cameras, prop counters. The screen hovers above harmoniously flickering between the scenes masking over the hubbub beneath.

There is something satisfying to the dexterous choreography of it. The pernickety ornamentation draws us in, but it’s only ever ornamentation that never drills deep into the heart of Nelson’s text. Without heart it lacks propulsion even if it beguiles with its impenetrable logic. It’s a strange opening salvo for new Royal Court artistic director David Byrne. But it’s early days.  

Bluets plays at the Royal Court until 29 June

Photography Credit: Camilla Greenwell


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