Have you ever wondered about the infinite possibilities of the universe and the concept of parallel worlds splintering off as the result of every decision you have ever, and never, made? No? Ok well it’s time to start. But rather than reading a heavy tome on mechanical physics, Nick Payne’s play Constellations will neatly sum up the concept of endless parallel universes by following the relationship between two characters.
Marianne and Roland meet at a BBQ. She cracks a joke and how Roland reacts to it starts off the infinite possibilities of what could have happened. In one version he laughs, another he looks at her weirdly, another he comes back with another joke etc… This then spurns a spider web of Sliding Doors style events, where missed opportunities, coincidences and chance meetings all create an alternative reality. If it sounds complicated that’s because it is. Your brain automatically tries to make links between the different universes to create a linear plot but as soon as you let go of the notion of following a set timeline the production becomes much easier to follow.
Payne has written a beautiful text that highlights how while we may want to be masters of our own destiny, most of our choices come down to pot-luck. Impressively he has sculpted fully realised characters in each universe and the actors, Louise Brealey and Joe Armstrong, rise to the challenge of repeating the same lines but with different means (it’s the perfect example of ‘It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it). The only trouble is that by splintering off into infinite versions of Marianne and Roland it’s quite hard to form a connection with them, because even if something devastating happens in one reality, in another everything is fine.
Visually, Constellations is stunning. Tom Scutt’s bare set is filled with hundreds of floating white balloons, creating a space-like atmosphere. Why there are balloons is revealed at the end and it’s so unusual I imagine Instagramers must have gone into overdrive when first seeing it. Lee Curran’s lighting design is leaned upon to infer different universes and his use of colours keeps the production looking otherworldly.
A short production for a touring show, Constellations is an interesting mash up of science, quantum physics, theatre & love and certainly worth a visit this summer.
Reviewed by Roz Carter
Photo: Johan Persson
Constellations is playing at the Richmond Theatre until 27 June and then continues its UK tour. The show will then return to the West End to play a limited run at the Trafalgar Studios from 9 July-1 August 2015. Click here for tickets