Tag Archives: Emma D’Arcy



Royal Court Theatre

BLUETS at the Royal Court Theatre


“Undoubtedly audacious and innovative, “Bluets” defies categorisation.”

“Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a colour”. So begins both Maggie Nelson’s 2009 novel, and Margaret Perry’s stage adaptation of the same title. If you wanted to find Nelson’s original in a bookshop, it would be filed under ‘poetry’. It comprises 240 prose poems that, although disjointed, explores the themes of sadness, grief and heartbreak. The colour blue is the obvious common thread which gets woven into the short essays like a Satin Bowerbird would decorate its nest with blue items.

Being unfamiliar with Nelson’s novella (as I am) is no handicap when approaching Perry’s interpretation. Every spoken word is lifted from Nelson’s text and moulded into an hour-long monologue, narrated by three actors all playing the same character. They each express the author’s innermost thoughts in an understated fashion that sometimes borders on whispering. The most striking feature is the staging. One cannot fail to notice the bank of cameras occupying the space, and the large video screen across the back wall. The impulse is to groan inwardly. There’s so much of it about at the moment; with Jamie Lloyd repeating the technique for his latest two productions, and even Ivo van Hove jumping on the bandwagon. But you have to remember that director Katie Mitchell pioneered the form, coining it ‘live cinema’ as far back as 2006.

The intention is that the audience are watching a film being made in real time while the finished product is projected onto the screen above the action. In reality, “Bluets” comes across more as a radio play than a film, and the transition from the spoken word to the visual perspective is often a distraction rather than an enhancement. It is ingeniously realised though. With the use of props and a mix of close ups and superimposed backdrops the impression of watching a film is uncannily simulated. We are often in awe at the technical wizardry, not to mention the concentration and prowess of the backstage crew. But the content inevitably suffers, and is overshadowed. So much so that we also forget the starry line up in the cast.



Ben Whishaw, Emma D’Arcy and Kayla Meikle are A, B and C respectively. But it doesn’t matter, as A, B and C are all the same person. The three performers move and speak as one, finishing each other’s sentences and covering up each other’s frequent non-sequiturs. It often resembles the childhood game of ‘Consequences’, but more grown up and sadly duller. Which is a shame. Stripped of the cleverness that surrounds them, the words would resonate much more if allowed to speak for themselves. Nelson’s writing is beautifully rhythmic, reflective and evocative. There are frequent pauses in the pathos and the poetry. The tight choreography of monologue and movement trips every so often as we worry that a prop is delivered correctly and on time, or that the actor is still on the right page.

Amid the clutter of a film set and the chaos of non-chronological shooting, it is only in the editing room that the vision begins to become coherent. In “Bluets” we get the sense that we are watching the raw material, and we are given little time or space to reflect on what the performers are saying. We are left with having to try and decipher it later, but at least are inspired to root out the original book.

Undoubtedly audacious and innovative, “Bluets” defies categorisation. Sometimes dreamlike, it also shows the grinding cogs that conjure the dreams. It verges on being hypnotic while narrowly avoiding soporific. The hour does seem to stretch, but the urge to look at our watches is mercifully suppressed enough as we are occasionally caught off guard by a moving and lyrical turn of phrase. An intriguing piece of theatre and at times a poignant exploration of grief, loneliness, sadness, heartbreak – but also pleasure. Yet the true emotion is hard to locate in this interpretation and only really tracked down in retrospect; like “a pile of thin blue gels scattered on the stage long after the show has come and gone”. It’s a challenge, but one worth taking.

BLUETS at the Royal Court Theatre

Reviewed on 24th May 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Camilla Greenwood




Previously reviewed at this venue:

GUNTER | ★★★★ | April 2024
COWBOIS | ★★★★★ | January 2024
MATES IN CHELSEA | ★★★ | November 2023
CUCKOO | ★★½ | July 2023
BLACK SUPERHERO | ★★★★ | March 2023
FOR BLACK BOYS … | ★★★★★ | April 2022



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Mrs Dalloway – 4 Stars


Mrs Dalloway

Arcola Theatre

Reviewed – 1st October 2018


“a creative and sophisticated production”


Hal Coase’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs Dalloway’ opens with a meta-theatrical “pre-amble” as Emma D’Arcy and Clare Lawrence Moody tell us where they live in London and when they first read ‘Mrs Dalloway’. It is a bold and exciting beginning that plays with form, just as Woolf does.

It is the story many know so well, of course. Across a single day in London in 1923, Clarissa Dalloway (Clare Perkins) is getting ready for a party, a party that she will be hosting tonight. At the same time, Septimus Warren Smith, a veteran of the First World War is struggling desperately to separate fantasy and reality, and is looking for help amongst the very people who will later be Clarissa’s guests. It is no easy feat to adapt, but Coase has done a brilliant job, and under Thomas Bailey’s highly capable direction, moments of internal thought and external conversation are wittily punctuated and communicated.

As well as performing in the piece, D’Arcy is the joint artistic director of theatre company Forward Arena and is responsible for the design of all their productions to date. For Mrs Dalloway, this is simple, aesthetic and sophisticated. A blue patch of sky on the back wall is later joined by another patch of sunset. Cream costumes blend into a curtain. Portable cassette players create the bustling sound of London, an overlapping soundscape of people. Bailey creates the party scene with a row of microphones, a cramped panel setup that is highly evocative. Occasional nods to modernity in the form of an iPhone and an Oyster card could work, but stand alone as they are, they feel lacklustre.

The production boasts some wonderful performances. Moody is particularly good. She has a liveliness and a playful energy that she brings to each role in turn. Guy Rhys as Septimus lacks depth and is unfortunately unconvincing meaning the emotional impact of his plight has limited effect. He is, however, the only weak link in an otherwise strong cast.

This is a creative and sophisticated production on all fronts, well crafted and beautifully delivered.


Reviewed by Amelia Brown

Photography by Ollie Grove


Mrs Dalloway

Arcola Theatre until 20th October


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Heretic Voices | ★★★★ | January 2018
Fine & Dandy | ★★★★★ | February 2018
The Daughter-in-Law | ★★★★ | May 2018
The Parade | ★★★ | May 2018
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives | ★★★★★ | June 2018
The Rape of Lucretia | ★★★★ | July 2018
Elephant Steps | ★★★★ | August 2018
Greek | ★★★★ | August 2018


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