Review by Alison Stoddart
In the elegant subterranean Private Wine Cellar of Beckett’s Bar and Dining in Glebe, a performer of substance and style presented a short vignette of his own work that will debut at Belvoir Street Theatre in January. “Blue” by Thomas Weatherall was delivered by a quietly confident and charismatic young actor.
This play came to fruition as part of the Balnaves Foundation Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellowship, in conjunction with Belvoir St Theatre, which Weatherall was awarded last year. He was mentored and supported in his creation of a new work, from initiation through to its upcoming debut performance on stage at Belvoir St.
Thomas Weatherall is a Kamilaroi man who has the grace and stillness of a dancer (which he is), the intuition and perception of a writer (which he is) and the presence of an actor (which he is).
He performed three excerpts from his play “Blue” which is starting its run in January 2023. The literary style chosen for his debut play is a stream of consciousness presented as a continuous flow monologue. His writing is skilful and he takes a bottom-up approach to his world building, concentrating on the small details of smells, music and sound. His literary voice is lyrical and he sets various scenes perfectly. From the 20 minute performance we are presented with the inner thoughts of Mark, a young man who has a whimsical, undeniably sad and expressively tortured nature. Mark describes the share house in which he finds himself, living with a girl called Effie. His description of the kitchen, of where he likes to sit and watch Effie, and the effortless manner she dances around doing her cooking is a beautiful way to convey his feelings for her.
Another excerpt is a lovely vignette about two brothers, Mark and John and the love they show each other. The touching upon of mental health issues and the support that can be extended to someone doing it tough, is well done. To reference it is to tap into the current defining ideology of this period of history. And Weatherall’s use of metaphor in his excerpt about relationships (and burning houses) is amusing and elicits many knowing chuckles from the audience.
Weatherall is a gentle performer who speaks eloquently and has a presence and voice that he puts to good use to mesmerise the room. He has also been seen in recent performances on TV and theatre (most notably in the updated Heartbreak High) where he was certainly eye catching and a member of that cast who definitely stood out.
I noticed a few audience members nodding along with Weatherall during another of the excerpts, this one about the protagonist’s mother. He describes her being a writer and how he would go and sit in the garden as a small boy and copy his mother with his own notebook and pencil and cup of tea in his Winnie-the-Pooh mug. He has obviously captured the essence of this character and I felt a definite sense of autobiography/memoir thread running through this piece, even though Weatherall tells me after the performance that it is not autobiographical. It certainly had an air of authenticity drawn from personal experience. He is a very talented writer and if he ever decides he needs a change of career, his skills in this field would stand him in good stead. I look forward to his next creative endeavour.
If the ultimate goal is to encourage more people to see more theatre, then the enticement of a teaser theatre vignette along with the genteel ambience of Beckett’s Private Wine Cellar and an excellent four course meal is more than enough to fulfil this brief.