Derek Jarman’s Blue To Be Performed Live

Written by on February 25, 2023

Derek Jarman’s Blue To Be Performed Live


On the 30th anniversary of its completion, WeTransfer has commissioned Neil Bartlett to direct a live version of Derek Jarman’s seminal film Blue Now, with a cast featuring Russell Tovey, Travis Alabanza, Jay Bernard and Joelle Taylor. Together they will deliver Jarman’s words accompanied by live music from original composer Simon Fisher Turner in four live performances in Brighton, Margate, Manchester and London.

“If I lose half my sight, will my vision be halved?”

BLUE was Derek Jarman’s final film. Completed in May 1993, just months before his death, it is his testament. For 74 minutes, an unchanging screen of celestial blue is accompanied by voices which deliver a collage of fragments from Jarman’s diary, describing the gradual onset of blindness as he battles with HIV. As his daily life is stripped away, only the essentials remain.

For this very special series of live performances, a cast of four actors including activist and art collector Russell Tovey whose recent work includes Years and Years, American Horror Story, Angels In America, Allelujah and The History Boys; Travis Alabanza (Sound of the Underground, Burgerz, Overflow); Jay Bernard (Ted Hughes Award (2017) for Surge: Side A, Poet Slash Artist and Joint) and TS Eliot award-winning poet and acclaimed spoken word performer Joelle Taylor (C+nto and othered poems) will deliver Jarman’s powerful words, directed by Neil Bartlett. The film’s original composer, Simon Fisher Turner, will accompany them with a new live score. Presented by WeTransfer, the live performances will take place at Brighton’s Theatre Royal as part of Brighton Festival, Turner Contemporary in Margate, HOME in Manchester and Tate Modern in London.

Russell Tovey photo: Jason Dimmock

Russell Tovey said: “Derek Jarman is my hero, and I feel the power of his work more so than ever today. BLUE NOW will be a gift from Derek, to us, and I cannot wait for it to happen.”

Neil Bartlett – photo by Camilla Broadbent

Neil Bartlett said: “I was lucky enough to know Derek Jarman. He was – and is – an inspiration, not just to me but to people around the world. I am proud to be bringing his words alive again by collaborating with this extraordinary team of artists.”

BLUE was created during the darkest days of the British AIDS epidemic, and bears witness not just to its creator’s remarkable courage but also to the rage and loss of an entire generation. Thirty years to the month after it was completed, this new live rendition of the film will be a chance to hear afresh its inspiring message of compassion, love and dignity under fire. Revisiting the piece now creates an opportunity to both revisit the pioneering contribution of the LGBTQI+ community to national life over 30 years and how different generations have dealt with the trauma of the AIDS epidemic. It paints a lasting picture of struggle and resilience at a time when the whole world has been figuring out how to survive in the face of a global pandemic.

As an addition to the live performances, WeTransfer has commissioned a digital iteration of BLUE NOW to appear on its arts platform WePresent. This version will not copy the original BLUE but instead pay tribute to the original artwork and its creator Derek Jarman through the words and voices of contemporary LGBTQIA+ artists. Since 2009, WeTransfer has donated up to 30% of its media inventory to artists and social causes, giving a platform to underrepresented voices within the creative community. Designed by WeTransfer’s award-winning creative studio, WePresent’s BLUE NOW content series will bring the legacy of this artwork to a large global audience where it will be accessible for free.

Get more information at the official site.

Jay Bernard

Joelle Taylor Photo: Roman Manfredi

Simon Fisher Turner

Travis Alabanza


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