Review: Constellations

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Nick Payne’s 2012 play Constellations tells a tale of multiverses and parallel worlds; of how any one decision can change a lifetime and of how any one lifetime can take infinite forms. We follow two unlikely lovers, physicist Marianne and beekeeper Roland, and the changing state of their relationship throughout various timelines. Often funny, often gut-wrenching and always engaging, Pitch Productions’ take on the play is an understated but largely effective one.

Less is more seems to have been the philosophy adopted by director in terms of stage design, lighting and sound. The stage itself is entirely bare – the only decorations to be found are the blue and white balloons which float ethereally against the ceiling, whose foreboding meaning is made clearer as the show progresses. The use of lighting is equally subtle and serves largely to differentiate between the various universes present on the stage. Only a few mellow spotlights illuminate the actors, their warmth fading and rising almost imperceptibly with the changing tone of each scene. Any music or sound effects are entirely absent, except the mechanical whirr of a spotlight changing direction as we shift universes. Even the characters’ outfits are totally everyday. This minimalistic style adds a sense of intimacy and realness to the production. In the absence of distractions, the audience must focus only on the cast, analysing their every movement, hanging on their every word.

This minimalistic style adds a sense of intimacy and realness to the production

Our cast is composed of four members: and each playing different incarnations of Marianne, and and each playing Roland. Performing Payne’s script, full of repetition and structural circularity as it is, can be no easy feat – yet each member tackles it flawlessly. Throughout the show, the actors’ respective realities become ever more intertwined, to a point at which they physically amalgamate and complete each other’s sentences – all without ever acknowledging the other’s presence.

All the actors make the audience laugh out loud on numerous occasions, often with the same joke being repeated multiple times. The cast equally faces the more emotional scenes with great sensitivity. You can hear the audience collectively hold their breath as Marianne discusses her medical news time and time again, each repetition as painful as the last. Chapman’s performance is particularly moving, as she struggles to hold back tears in some remarkably believable scenes. Payne’s script devotes relatively few words to displaying the love between Marianne and Roland. Despite this, the actors’ chemistry together shines through like stars in a cloudless sky. In a production so sparing with visual and auditory embellishment, and in an ensemble so small, each actor has a lot of heavy lifting to do. Each one seizes this Herculean task with great success.

The actors’ chemistry together shines through like stars in a cloudless sky

The show as a whole is consistently entertaining but doesn’t quite soar to any great height. The script’s structural gymnastics are interesting conceptually but make it difficult to imply anything of meaning. This being said, at just an hour in length, it’s short but sweet and certainly worth watching – thanks almost entirely to its four stars.

Constellations are being performed at 19:30 in the Mark Hillery Arts Centre from 9th to 11th November.

Image credit: Pitch Productions

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