Maggie Nelson's novel Bluets gets an experimental outing at the Royal Court. Following the pain of a devastating heartbreak, Nelson's character takes us on a journey that is swamped by the colour blue. An infatuation in a colour often associated with sadness and depression. Margaret Perry has adapted 240 poses into a monologue told by the three actors on stage. 

Ben Whishaw, Emma Darcy and Kayla Meikle are stood onstage amongst the same repeated setup. They each have a mic, a script, an array of cameras and a screen behind them. As they perform from the same monologue they share words and lines. It becomes apparent that all three are playing the same character. We can't see the cast all that well but the camera projects what they're doing in detail to a large screen. It feels less like theatre and more like a live cinema-making experience. It feels otherworldly as images move behind each of them and they pretend to walk, drive and look out at views but it's fascinating to watch. I question whether it makes the most out of an extremely talented cast but in some ways it does. The performances are bizarre but natural and the audience quickly forgets they have giant flat-screen televisions as a backdrop. They never stop rotating lines and have tables where they showcase small details, props and wrap up in duvets for a restless sleep. Stage management are logistically up against it every night, they are as much a part of the story as the cast with the amount of props and set they rotate in front of us. 

The characters' obsession with the colour blue is all-consuming. They wear it, they study it and they have a collection of blue objects they display in the sunlight. They admire the obvious blues; the sea, the sky, water. But their collection is of small trinkets that are tied to their feeling of gloominess. The story doesn't feel urgent but it's still interesting to watch the heavy goings on of their mind. The loss of their relationship and their best friend being in an accident doesn't help their sadness. There are small pockets of laughter but the mood in the space is sadness. I initially wondered if we needed all three actors but by the end of the eighty minutes, it became a treat to see them working together. Katie Mitchell has been both clever and playful in direction. Margaret Perry has adapted the original novel well into a curious monologue. 

Bluets is at the height of camera technicality that I've seen in theatre so far and I enjoy the use of live feed on stage. This peculiar piece of theatre is a brave choice by new Royal Court artistic director David Byrne to programme and is an exciting insight for things to come. Bluets is ambitious, explorative and I hope to see more theatre like it.

It runs until 29 June.


Review: Nicole Botha    Photo: Camilla Greenwell