Blue State Theatre Company 2024Adelaide Festival. State Theatre Company South Australia and Celsus in association with Adelaide Festival present a Belvoir St Theatre Production. Scott Theatre. 28 Feb 2024


Blue is a palpable one-actor play about a young man’s loss of family following tragic events, his ensuing grief, and his inspiring resilience. The young man is Mark, and he is very capably played by Callan Purcell. It is a sad, affecting, and at times humorous story. Although the main subject material is harrowing and not new, the sequence of events in the arc of Mark’s story, written by award winning actor and writer Thomas Weatherall, is novel and its telling is fresh.


Mark is a writer, and so when he tells his story, he inevitably delves into detail and luxuriates in words. From an audience perspective, this can be quite distracting because, like Mark, we can become more interested in the detail than the events that are being described. It is interesting that Weatherall should make his character a writer and then foreground the subliminal processes that writers go through as a significant part of the play’s narrative. In some ways, it detracts from the play itself and places considerable extra demands on the actor, and the audience who must listen very carefully and apply heightened concentration. It’s not an easy theatre experience to enjoy, but perhaps this is part of Weatherall’s intention.


Because the play was performed in the Scott Theatre, with its unforgiving acoustic, Purcell’s vocal clarity was often compromised which forced the audience to listen ever so carefully, and the use of floor level microphones did little to address the problem. The text was therefore carefully scrutinised. (Adelaide so desperately needs additional quality performance spaces.)


The set design (attributed to Jacob Nash and Cris Baldwin) is evocative, empathetic, and stylised. It is one of the highlights of the production. It comprises a slightly raised semi-oval shaped stage connected seamlessly to a curving similarly shaped wall. The whole thing looks like a giant opened bivalve mollusc, and it is made of a textured material that is ashen white upon which projections of seascapes and other images can be projected. The play’s title Blue is a nod to the ocean, but also to clinical depression, both of which are of critical importance to the plot line. At one point, the actor removes floor panels to expose a shallow pool of water under the raised acting area, which he then wades into and uses to underscore crucial moments in the plot.


The success of the set is contingent on the superlative lighting design by Chloe Ogilvie. It is truly outstanding in the way it supports and moves with the narrative and Mark’s mood and state of mind. Wil Hugh’s excellent sound design also adds gravitas and lightness as the text requires.


The staging is simple, with very few stage properties in use. The focus is squarely on the actor and the story line. The play runs a full eighty minutes, and actor Callan Purcell never falters in engaging the audience and maintaining an appropriate pace. As previously mentioned, the side stepping into detail occasionally deflects the momentum and Purcell works diligently to minimise the issue. Director Deborah Brown ensures Purcell uses the full capability of the stage, including partially stepping up the rear wall (and dipping back down) that gives the impression of life and circumstances bearing down on Mark.


This is another quality presentation from State Theatre, of what is a Belvoir St Theatre production.


Kym Clayton


When: 28 Feb to 16 Mar

Where: Scott Theatre