Writer: Nick Payne
Director: Michael Longhurst
Reviewer: Iain Sykes
Writer Nick Payne doesn’t waste any time in putting the audience right into the heart of his play Constellations. And when that acclaimed play, which premiered in 2012 at London’s Royal Court Theatre before runs in the West End and on Broadway, is a mere seventy minutes long, he really can’t afford to. Straight away we’re with the two characters in this scientific romance, beekeeper Roland (Joe Armstrong) and Marianne (Louise Brealey), a witty university scientist with a fascination with the conflict between quantum physics and the theory of relativity, leading to the possibility of multiverses, parallel universes where all the possible outcomes of every moment are lived out.
And there lies the inherent intelligence behind Payne’s writing in this play. Rather than being a straight arrow of time narrative, Payne weaves a whole script around Marianne’s theories. Scenes are repeated over and over, each in a separate universe, each with its own ever so slightly different attitude and outcome, but most importantly, each thread that runs through the play is just as strong as all the others. Helped by sharp directing from Michael Longhurst and Tom Scutt’s haunting set design, the play develops in a series of razor sharp, finely acted and observed vignettes. Despite the complex nature of the piece, the script carries a most playful clarity that ensures things skip along at the perfect pace to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the characters in a play where there isn’t a single weak moment.
Armstrong and Brealey together have more than enough charisma to hold the stage in this two-hander for the whole duration of the play and carry the audience with them on their sometimes rocky romantic journey. At times they have the audience laughing out loud, sometimes stunned into silence and, in a thread that increasingly reveals itself as the play moves along, genuinely moved.
Constellations is a stunning and unforgettable piece of theatre in all of its many attributes. It’s a play with humour, intelligence and emotion, all brought together perfectly by a most talented writer and a cast of two who never let the pace drop, with superb presence and timing. If you like your theatre to feed your mind as well as your eyes and ears, Constellations is the faultless play.
Runs Until 13th June 2015