You probably know Thomas Weatherall as Malakai from Heartbreak High, the incredibly popular Netflix reboot of the ’90s television series. But there’s so much more to Weatherall than Malakai.

At just 23, the Brisbane-born actor and playwright is one of the most talented multi-hyphenates of his generation. A proud Kamilaroi man, he’s won both Logie and AACTA awards for his work on screen and his debut play Blue, which was developed through the Balnaves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Fellowship in partnership with Belvoir Theatre. Blue has had multiple runs and earned him much critical acclaim.

Blue is a tender and deeply personal monologue that Weatherall began writing as a teenager while living just a few blocks away from La Boite Theatre in Brisbane. The one-man play tells the story of Mark, a young man who, after moving out of home, communicates with his mum through a series of letters, until one letter changes everything.

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Just as he did in the inaugural Sydney season, Weatherall is starring in the play under the direction of award-winning choreographer and Bangarra alum Deborah Brown. The play is one of the most exciting pieces of theatre coming to Brisbane this year. It opens at La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre this week and will run until June 1.

Ahead of the Brisbane season, Weatherall sat down with Broadsheet to chat about his creative process, the play’s autobiographical elements and what it feels like to be performing such a personal work in front of a hometown crowd.

When did you start writing the play?
I began writing Blue in 2019, and really picked it up in earnest in 2021. It was a long process (around four years) filled with several deleted drafts. I never anticipated sharing it with the world. It was a deeply personal outlet and creative practice, and I was pretty happy for it to remain that way. But after some very early encouragement from my mother and partner I decided to send it off to Belvoir, [but I was] completely unprepared for it to take off the way it has!

You’ve described this play as very personal fiction. In what ways are you similar or dissimilar to Mark?
The first iteration was much more autobiographical, but ultimately I didn’t feel comfortable enough sharing that with an audience. So the character of Tom became Mark, and slowly everything was fictionalised, or told through metaphor. It’s interesting returning to the piece. I feel a lot less similar to Mark these days but can see how I related to him at 19 and 20.

I think we’re both introverts who turn to creative outlets as a way of coping and at the core of us both is a desire to find hope and contentment within the more mundane and minute parts of life.

Was dance and movement always part of the script?
Definitely not. I wrote the piece to be very contained and stripped back, and it was only in the development and exploration with Belvoir that it began taking shape as a more physical and theatrical offering. There are still only a few moments of movement, but it’s quite a physical piece, and perhaps with my background as a dancer it was inevitable? But that really came later, as a way to support and colour the text.

Blue has been performed in Sydney and Adelaide, but this will be the first time you’ve performed this coming-of-age story in the state where you grew up. How does that feel?
In a way it feels both easier and more terrifying! There’s been a certain degree of separation sharing it in these cities, where I’m still very much a stranger, but bringing it home sheds a bit of that, and I think makes you more vulnerable. There’s a lot of people coming along who will recognise parts of myself in this piece that perhaps other audiences haven’t, which is a little nerve-wracking! But also being able to share it in Queensland, mere blocks away from where I wrote it, feels really full-circle and comforting.

Are there more areas of your personal life you’re keen to explore through your writing, or will your next play be something completely different?
I’ve recently finished my next play and it perhaps gets more personal and introspective than Blue, while still being completely fictionalised. I like to keep my personal and professional life very separate – and that’s easy to do when taking on other characters as an actor – but through my writing I do tend to be quite personal in what I choose to explore. I don’t think I’ll ever release anything completely autobiographical, but I enjoy using this outlet to explore personal thoughts, concerns and fears that are hopefully pretty universal and accessible.

Any upcoming acting projects you’re excited about outside of Blue?
Right now I’m really focusing on my writing, which has been wonderful. It’s great to be able to do the two concurrently, and I think each practice informs and improves the other, so I’m really relishing creating my own work during my acting downtime. That being said, I’ve recently finished my last slate of acting projects and am really keen for audiences to see them. They feel like a great and necessary departure from what audiences may have seen me do, so I’m very excited to see their reception.

Blue runs from May 16 to June 1 at La Boite’s Roundhouse Theatre. Tickets are available online.