Tag Archives: Margaret Perry



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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Paradise Now

Paradise Now!


Bush Theatre

PARADISE NOW! at the Bush Theatre


Paradise Now

“Jaz Woodcock-Stewart’s direction makes so much sense and is so smooth and clever, that it lifts the play further off the page”


There’s a moment when the man handing over my ticket says: “You do know the running time is 2 hours 40, right? Including interval!” that I thought ‘how can I make a polite run for it?’ Afterall, as he pointed out, most plays at the Bush Theatre are little more than an hour. I hadn’t eaten, I’d travelled an hour to get to West London; my dog was at home. 2 hours 40 feels like a long time for a play in 2022.

It turns out that I would sit through six more hours of Paradise Now! (by Margaret Perry). I would accept days of an Inheritance-like sprawl of this play – about an intergenerational group of women dealing with loneliness and unfulfilled ambition, as they get sucked into the heady world of multi-level marketing by Alex (Shazia Nicholls).

Five women, from different ages and backgrounds, all on a quest to find meaning in life. The story focuses on Gabriel Dolan (Michele Moran), who lives in a London houseshare with her big sister Baby (Carmel Winters) and TV-presenter-wannabee Carla (Ayoola Smart). Gabriel has recently experienced a significant depressive episode, something her big sister reminds her of constantly when she comes home from her retail job, knackered. “You won’t sleep on the couch again, will you?” Gabriel asks, and Baby immediately falls asleep on the couch.

Gabriel’s journey into selling essential oils to other women is motivated by wanting to help her sister get out of the 30,000 hours she’s given to the store – there’s a heartbreaking scene at the very end of the play where Baby says no-one even gave her a leaving card when she retired (but even the most heartbreaking moments are riddled with Perry’s wry jokes and whip-sharp commentary on life).

Enter the stage: Alex, a woman who recruits other women to sell essential oils. She’s glamorous, an excellent seller, but cracks of insecurity start to show. She’s acted brilliantly by Nicholls, who manages to convey the multi-faceted personality of this multi-level marketing guru with precision and humour. She encourages women who feel they have nothing to be proud of in life to start mini-businesses and become someone – in this case, by selling “a little touch of luxury at an affordable price point.” But she’s no saint, as we see her begin to unravel throughout the play – at one point while being attacked by a robot vacuum cleaner.

The essential oils business (called Paradise) is marketed as a ‘team, a family’, and our band of characters enter into the business with varying levels of enthusiasm. For some, like Gabriel, it appears to be a lifeline, and offers a chance for her to experience a different kind of life where people believe in her for the very first time. The enthusiasm is perfectly tempered by Anthie (Annabel Baldwin), Carla’s girlfriend, who, as an outsider, brings a note of healthy skepticism to the proceedings. Baldwin uses their face to convey bafflement at what’s going on throughout, and they have both outstanding comic timing and dance skills, employed to show their fruitless search for success.

My only (tiny) criticism is the script’s tendency to throw in exciting-sounding backstories that aren’t fully explored. Laurie (a slightly unhinged and blunt character played exquisitely by Rakhee Thakrar) reminds Alex multiple times that she knows her from school. Alex can’t remember her, but we never found out what happened at school to make her reappear in the very offbeat way she has. There’s also a coming-out memory, which didn’t feel completely necessary.

However, these minor dramaturgical questions aren’t enough to detract from the sheer joy of a production that sings: there’s simply no real bum note. The writing is sharp and with one-liners genuinely so funny that the actors sometimes swagger when they say them because they know they’d raise the roof at a stand-up set. The set is modern, dynamic, with space-saving furniture devices that would leave IKEA begging for the patent from set-designer Rosie Elnile. Jaz Woodcock-Stewart’s direction makes so much sense and is so smooth and clever, that it lifts the play further off the page and thrusts it to even greater heights than the already tight and genius-script.

It is, fundamentally, a joy, with meditations on ambition, exploitation and loneliness all delivered in a way that makes the audience genuinely empathise with the characters.

Go, go twice, go again. You’ll have no regrets.



Reviewed on 9th December 2022

by Eleanor Ross

Photography by Helen Murray



Previously reviewed at this venue:


Lava | ★★★★ | July 2021
Favour | ★★★★ | June 2022
The P Word | ★★★ | September 2022


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