Blue Interviews Part Two: Thomas Weatherall

Kamilaroi man and playwright Thomas Weatherall on the story behind his coming-of-age drama Blue

feature (adelaide) | Read in About 8 minutes
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Thomas Weatherall, writer for Blue
Photo by Daniel Boud
Published 01 Mar 2024

What was the inspiration behind Blue?

I started writing Blue when I was in drama school. I was a bit disenfranchised with the work I was doing, the direction I felt I was heading in, and to speak candidly, life in general. Blue really became a sort of unprescribed therapy where I was able to write about things I felt were too difficult to talk about, while remaining in the safety net of fiction. Through the writing process some things became more personal, and others much more fictionalised, but it was always a constant outlet for self expression, and really allowed me to exorcise some thoughts and ideas I didn’t realise were so prominent in my life. I had no intention of sharing it with the world, it was a very private thing, but I’m very grateful to the person who encouraged me to do so.

Have you always wanted to become a playwright?

I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but didn’t necessarily have the aspirations of becoming a playwright. I’ve always loved theatre, but engaged with it as an actor and audience member, and not really anything deeper. It was only through writing Blue that theatre felt like the correct, and most accessible outlet for this story. Also, discovering playwrights like Duncan Macmillan, Nick Payne and Simon Stephens at drama school had a profound effect on me. It was a sort of subculture and style of playwriting I hadn’t been exposed to, and I guess opened me up to the form. Now I’m desperate to write another play, and am slowly working through a few ideas.

Do you feel that your experience as an actor has helped you while writing Blue?

Once Blue started to take shape as a play, it was really only my experience as an actor that gave me the confidence to continue creating it. I figured at the bare minimum I was creating a role for myself, and in a way wrote to my strengths as an actor, and furthermore the kind of role and character I was wanting to play at the time. It’s interesting now, in anything I write I tend to “take on the role” of the character while I’m working. It’s almost like improvisation at a point, and I’m playing several characters in my living room like a madman, wondering how each one would react to certain things, how they’d sound, etc. I think a background in acting can be so beneficial for creating character and drama, but it’s also the only way I really know how to work.

How does Blue explore themes of love and loss while growing up?

Blue follows Mark, a young man, who by his early 20s has experienced his fair-share of grief and loss. The piece is a one-man show, told as an almost stream of consciousness confession between Mark and the audience. We meet him at a time where he is desperate to share his story, and even more desperate for someone to listen to him. You get to watch a young man explore the events of his life in all their glory and ugliness, in a way that is both unfiltered, and unapologetic. Blue is almost an homage to growing up and finding your way in the world, told through moments of beauty, and moments of true despair. Sharing this work with audiences has truly been one of the greatest experiences in my life, which seems somewhat surreal, when I reflect that the writing of it was often some of the most difficult. Although it’s fiction, it was quite terrifying the prospect of Blue actually getting out into the world, and there was – and still is – a lot of imposter syndrome in thinking about that. Seeing the way in which audiences have engaged with the work has been the most rewarding thing though. Being able to have conversations in the foyer afterwards about some of the material, or receiving letters from audience members is honestly nothing short of life-changing.

Photo by Daniel Boud

How does it feel to bring this play to the Adelaide Festival this year?

Surreal! There’s something really exciting about seeing the play go on to have its own life, with little involvement from myself. There’s definitely a bittersweet aspect to it, but I’m so grateful it gets to have that kind of first iteration at Adelaide of all places! The Festival is such an iconic event in our artistic landscape, and to be a part of it is really exciting.

How does it feel to see your play come to life from an original idea on a page to a full performance on stage, and, as an Indigenous person, what does it mean to have this opportunity?

It almost feels wrong to look at it through that lens, because I hope that the play and its story is celebrated and engaged with based on the merit of the production first and foremost. I’m incredibly grateful I get to share my work, and that Adelaide Festival has such an emphasis on sharing the work of First Nations artists, but this piece is less concerned about culturally specific themes and questions, and more so a myriad of hopefully quite universal themes. In saying that, I love seeing a production that is produced and created by a team of several First Nations artists, and creatives, and think it’s a wonderful step in the right direction for the betterment of our industry. I’m also hopeful that through sharing more Indigenous led work, it might inspire and encourage the next generation of First Nations artists to feel empowered to create and share their work. I mean the old idea of life imitates art and vice-versa exists for a reason. Theatre is at its best when it genuinely reflects the experience of the people creating and viewing the work, and the fact that our industry has for some time lacked true representation is disappointing. Seeing a trend in more First Nations representation, and more culturally diverse stories in general being staged in Australia is both really exciting, and in my opinion necessary! Having a safe space for audiences of all backgrounds to engage with work that they can identify with and be challenged by, made by creatives from an array of all cultural backgrounds is so important, and creates the opportunity for some really valuable and meaningful discourse.

What do you hope the audience gets out of this performance?

It’s a difficult thing to try and prescribe because the show touches on so many significant themes and questions about life. I hope audiences are open to the work, and truthfully take away what they need out of it. Whether it’s being able to identify with the character’s experience – the good and bad – or just having a safe space to listen to these kinds of questions. The show isn’t afraid of delving into some of the more ugly moments in our lives, and I hope audiences are willing to ride that journey with Mark. In saying that, the story is one of hope at its centre, and I hope audiences are able to grab on to that sense of hope and unwavering fortitude, and take a bit of that into their own lives.

Do you have anything else exciting coming up?

There’s a few exciting things coming up, some I can talk about and some I maybe can’t... Season 2 of Heartbreak is on its way so I’m really excited for that. I’ve also just finished up on The Narrow Road to the Deep North, an adaptation of the Richard Flanagan novel. It’s my favourite book, so being a part of that show has been a truly life changing experience. Other than that I’m working on some new writing, which I’ll hopefully be able to share with the world sometime soon!

Go see Blue! Buy tickets, support the Festival, take your friends and family, share it with the people you love! This play has essentially turned into a love letter to my mother, my family, my friends, and the people who have supported me through tough times. I hope audiences can share in that sentiment and share the experiences with those who mean the most to them.


Read our interview with Hamilton actor Callan Purcell, now taking the lead role in Blue, here.

Blue, Scott Theatre, The University of Adelaide, until 16 March