At a little over an hour long, this play manages to take you on an emotional journey and leaves you really questioning the choices you make. A limited run but an absolute must-see.
Is there such a thing as free will? Are all our actions decided on before birth? These are questions that Nick Payne’s Constellations raises. Focusing on one simple relationship that could have a number of different outcomes, it is a play that makes you think about whether the decision you make today, could have a drastic effect on tomorrow.
Marianne (Louise Brealey, Sherlock) and Roland (Joe Armstrong, The Village) meet for the first time at a barbecue and proceed to either fall in love, flirt or not talk to each other at all. This sets the tone for the rest of the performance as short snippets of the experiences play out, all with different outcomes, each leading to a different ending, questioning the object of our own free will. Marianne explains to Roland that “we are in a multiverse” concluding that there could be several different outcomes all coexisting, and it is this complex theory that Constellations explains and portrays so simply and effectively.
Scenes are repeated, something that sounds as if it might get somewhat tedious, yet Brealey and Armstrong adapt to make sure that every scene is different, comedic, and can tug on everyone’s heart. Constellations takes a complicated physical theory and attaches it to a real life situation and it does this perfectly. You sympathise, you laugh, you see every inch of emotional reaction from the two lone figures on stage and Michael Longhurst’s direction is flawless. Brealey and Armstrong are perfect together and for them to command a stage on their own for just over an hour is an admirable achievement.
The set is simply beautiful, a small square raise, littered with honeycomb shapes representing Roland’s beekeeping and a litter of balloons across the back representing Marianne’s love for physics and the universe, although this is ruined by the somewhat tacky littering of balloons later on in the play. Brief lighting changes represent a change in outcomes and the atmosphere on stage is one of tension, making you ask yourself ‘was that the decision that changed the course of their lives?’
You are told the life story of two characters in an hour and ten minutes and in that time you become emotionally attached to them, screaming internally for them not to make the wrong decision. When you reach the penultimate scene you will cry, when you reach the final scene, you will cry even more. There were few dry eyes in the auditorium after the tour de force that is Constellations. An exceptional piece of theatre that not only entertains but challenges your perspective on life, could you ask for anything more?
Constellations is at The Nuffield Theatre until Saturday 6th June and tickets can be purchased here with prices ranging from £10.00 – £25.00