By Nick Payne
Directed by Kat Henry
Bille Brown Studio
Brisbane season until April 9 followed by a Queensland tour. Bookings: queenslandtheatre.com.au
What do you get when the world of a beekeeper and the world of a quantum physicist endlessly collide? Constellations. After all, the universe didn’t create stars without the Big Bang. This recent play by British playwright Nick Payne stars a two-actor cast: Lucas Stibbard as Roland and Jessica Tovey as Marianne.
When Roland, the apiarist, encounters Marianne, the physicist, their worlds are thrust into a never-ending list of possibilities which Payne explores in a subtle and poignant manner. Constellations is an ode to love “wrapped in a science blanket”, an often quite touching piece that looks at the possibilities of a multiverse in which the characters are constantly living different angles of the same event. With oft seen themes that come with love and romantic pieces, this play injected some fresher and topical tropes such as question-evoking elements about scientific possibility and euthanasia.
The basic plot followed the first encounter between these two polar-opposites through to their first date and beyond to the end of their relationship. What was interesting about this play was that it thrust the audience into an erratic and looping world with time skips occurring at lighting fast pace.
You need to exercise a measure of patience for this story as Payne’s scenes are constantly repeated at various times throughout the play. This creates the impression that the performance is moving very slowly. Yet, upon affording a closer look to the script, each repeat of the scenes is played out and written a little differently each time.
This show was exceptionally cast. Queensland Theatre, time and time again demonstrates why it is one of the best company in the country.
Stibbard created an endearing and relatable character that made you want the best for him all throughout the play. His Roland is someone that we all have known at some point in our lives.
Tovey, on the other hand, took a rather intense and sometimes aloof character and grounded her, creating someone who was genuine and funny, despite her heightened moments. The set, sound and lighting designs all worked together perfectly with a unique image, particularly the set and lights, with their scientifically inspired imagery.
The soundtrack for the performance, as composed by Sound Designer Guy Webster fit the ambience of the writing like a glove, and enhanced each moment with a delicacy and reality that drew the proverbial strings of the performance together and took it to another level.
Constellations is the kind of play that isn’t perfect, and has trying, and even some stagnant moments, but it’s much like real love. This is, despite everything, a charming and moving piece that shows why it’s had sold out performances in the USA and UK