Writer: Nick Payne
Director: Michael Longhurst
After a successful summer season at the Vaudeville Theatre, Michael Longhurst’s production of Constellations continues to shine on the Donmar Warehouse website.
The play’s narrative may seem quite simple: two actors on a relatively bare stage playing out a relationship from beginning to end. Except there are multiple beginnings leading to countless ends, and the play isn’t straight forward at all.
Constellations explores the concept of the multiverse. Interactions are played out many times, with shifts in characterisation and tone that vary from subtle to humorous to shocking, and only some of these result in the survival of the relationship.
There is a lot of fun to be had with Nick Payne’s script and the success of the production sits firmly on the shoulders of the performers. Luckily, viewers are in very safe hands with Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah. The pair were the first couple to perform the piece earlier this year and they certainly set a high bar for any return viewers seeing the other casts.
As Marianne, Sheila Atim delivers an acting masterclass which could, and perhaps should, be studied for its electric originality and playful humanity. There is a wealth of humour to be mined from her role and Atim leaves no stone unturned, navigating comedy beats with impressive dexterity, attitude, and cheek. Yet, Marianne ultimately has a heavy emotional burden to bear which Atim delivers with an honesty and commitment which is painful to watch in all the right ways.
Against Atim’s firework persona, Jeremiah’s presentation of Roland feels like a steady current, acting as the caring, dutiful rock that underpins the relationship. That is not to say he is overshadowed; their relationship is undoubtedly a team effort and the couple complement each other extraordinarily well. Jeremiah’s standout moments come whenever the relationship feels threatened; he has a powerful ability to convey Roland’s vulnerability and love in a way that brings tears to the eye. The devotion Jeremiah’s Roland demonstrates for Atim’s Marianne is what everyone longs for in a partner and when he pleads for ‘more time’ in one of the possible endings, the audience’s hearts break alongside his.
The recording of the show is stunning, offering a crisp, highly detailed view of the performances which you would struggle to obtain even in the first few rows of the theatre. It is also impressive that both actors retain their raw energy, despite recording without a live audience, and are just as capable of making you laugh along, albeit alone.
Unfortunately, some of their performance is inevitably lost as the camera cannot constantly broadcast both performers. In this highly conversational two hander, alternating close ups on every line would have a very jarring whiplash effect. Therefore, a necessary evil is that sometimes viewers must settle for just one actor on screen, rather than the full experience the live performance would provide.
Whether you are a new or returning viewer to the Constellations multiverse, the On Demand recordings are well worth your time, offering remarkably detailed viewing of a completely rewatchable show. Furthermore, Atim and Jeremiah may not be the biggest names to perform the piece in this season, but there is a strong argument for them being the best; what they deliver together is absolute magic.
Available here until 29 November 2021