Review: Constellations

Zoe Barnes 28 April 2016

Constellations isn’t earth-shattering. 

The initial aesthetic is interesting: simply staged; a piano set against a pale screen. The effect is dream-like – a horizon that stretches up to the heavens, a canvas upon which is inscribed the destinies of the characters in their various forms. The play has been staged very well, with meticulous creative and practical direction throughout, where many might have fallen into the trap of making up for the script itself by going overboard with set and scenery. Changes in storyline and universe are very well signalled, with small prop changes, such as moving from wine glasses to pints of beer or red paper cups, giving a flow to the proceedings as well as showing subtle differences in atmosphere. It must also be said that the technical elements at play are superb, with imaginative and effective lighting.

The relationships between characters are explored in depth, and the need to portray similar storylines in a variety of ways is a challenge, which Ella Duffy and Ed Limb rise beautifully. This production must be commended for putting the emphasis on the actors’ skill. There is a great chemistry between the two as they effectively navigate the emotional and psychological singularities of their characters, Marianne and Roland, switching between different versions of themselves seamlessly. This is aided by Toby Marlow at the piano, who seems to act as much as a go-between between the parallel worlds as a musician animating the production.

Unfortunately, the production was let down by the limitations of the script. There’s probably a universe somewhere, probably infinite amounts of parallel universes, where the play feels avant-garde, beautifully portraying the nature of modern relationships and human interaction in the 21st century, as well as being an existential exploration of the quantum multiverse theory. Not this universe. In practice, Constellations manages the strange feat of being, on a macro level, more like a theatrical exercise than entertainment and, on the micro level, pure soap opera. A particularly well acted soap opera in this case, but a soap opera nonetheless, with clichés abounding, a predictable storyline and its fair share of cringe-worthy moments. Its decision to portray a scientific theory through theatre should be fascinating, but the multiverse is not truly explored, with neither evolution nor devolution as the play progresses.

Ultimately, I am willing to concede that Constellations is possibly a play that one either loves or hates, and therefore worth buying a ticket for.

6 /10