“We’ve effectively asked the same question twice and come up with two completely different answers” says Marianne… and there, in a nutshell, is the essence of this beautiful play by Nick Payne.
Constellations tells the journey of a relationship, but it is not told in order from start to finish. Instead, you see multiple possibilities for each conversation as the story unfolds, highlighting the various key points as Roland and Marianne meet and fall in love. Along the way it makes you question life’s purpose, and the control you think you have over your own situation.
The writing is clever, and full of nuance; fully realised by the careful direction of Michael Longhurst. It would be easy for a production like this to become repetitive and slow, but the cast and creative teams have worked meticulously to explore every possible variation of the lines and how they are delivered.
There is nowhere for the actors to hide in this production, and Zoë Wanamaker and Peter Capaldi show off every ounce of their theatre pedigree and acting skills, almost to perfection. Wanamaker, in particular, works incredibly hard to faithfully portray Marianne’s journey, which is made even more difficult as she has to flit back and forth in time.
The set design (Tom Scutt), which seems relatively simple at first glance, soon takes its own place in the story, with the lighting design (Lee Curran) reflecting the emotions of the piece as it progresses. I was particularly impressed by the sound design (David McSeveney), especially when you consider that I was watching from my own living room. The quality of the at-home presentation was exceptional, and I hope the Donmar considers filming more of its productions in the future.
However, the innovation didn’t stop with choosing to film the production, or its more-than-meets-the-eye design. By producing the same play with four different casts, the possibilities truly are almost endless… again reflecting the play’s multiple possible realities. The other casts available to watch are: Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah, Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey, and Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd; and each pairing bring their own personalities and experiences to the roles. If only I had time to watch them all!
You can watch Constellations on demand until Monday 29th November. Each play is around one hour long, with no interval. Tickets cost £15 per cast, or you can rent all 4 casts for £40. More information and tickets can be found at: https://ondemand.donmarwarehouse.com/
Reviewer: Jo Tillotson
Reviewed: 24th November 2021
North West End UK Rating: 4 stars