Theatre review - Constellations

Posted on: 11 December 2012 by Agatha Cheng

Laurence Green reviews Nick Payne’s metaphysical love story Constellations at the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End.

http://owl-group-staging.s3.amazonaws.com/upload_datas/33283/landscape_large.jpg?1354728135An original spin on the boy-meets-girl story in which we can choose our own ending from multiple possibilities is offered by Nick Payne’s metaphysical love story Constellations first staged at the Royal Court in January and now at the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End.

At a barbecue Roland, a genial beekeeper, meets Marianne, a quirky, intelligent and witty young woman who works at Sussex University in the field of quantum cosmology. She explains that her concern is multiverse theory: each choice a person makes or doesn’t make “exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universe”.

Their encounters that follow provide a clever exploration of randomness and the precarious nature if relationships. We are presented with numerous directions in which Marianne’s bond with Roland might take following their first meeting. They get together, move in, betray each other, and share their joys and sorrows. Indeed in the set of encounters between them, which range from the light-hearted to the life-changing, the emphasis is on matters of the heart, not the head.

http://owl-group-staging.s3.amazonaws.com/upload_datas/33282/landscape_large.jpg?1354727993At first the white helium balloons with hanging strings which adorn the dark, bare space of the stage, conjuring up various ideas: colliding atoms, string theory, the celebratory balloons of a wedding, made me think this was going to be a play about quantum physics. But it is not, nor is it simply a love story. It is a play about the infinite possibilities of love, the way we delude ourselves by thinking we never have enough time, when of course we have all the time in the world.

Director Michael Longhurst draws two touching performances from Sally Hawkins, who brings warmth and conviction to the role of the mercurial Marianne and Rafe Spall who makes Roland gauche and engaging. Both actors manage to jump-cut from one scene to another with great agility and, despite the limited dimensions of their characters, bring an emotional truthfulness to this 70-miniute work that many longer plays fail to do. In short this play about free will and friendship provides a moving and thought-provoking evening in the theatre.

Plays until January 5, 2013

Box office: 0844 871 7623

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