Constellations is a phenomenal play and having missed it in the West End, I have been desperate to see a staged production for a while. However, there is perhaps a reason as to why it is performed so infrequently, as it needs to be cast perfectly or it may perhaps be set up to fail.
It is hard to judge the show as Nick Payne’s script is genius. However, what I think the actors fell victim to was thinking this was enough. Although the characters are well written, with a play this intelligent, it is important to not allow the play to take control of you, but the other way around. Often, both actors (Lee Thomas as Roland and Katriona Perrett as Marianne) allowed to script to do most of the work, and therefore it sometimes landed flat. However, as the show progressed, they became more comfortable with the piece and began being bolder, and that was when the show came alive. Yet due to the intentionally repetitive nature of the piece, you need a high energy level to sustain the audience’s interest and concentration (which is essential for the play to thrive) and I think perhaps the reason it sagged at points was because of the lack of conviction.
The set and the lighting (no designer was credited, so I assume this was set by Charlotte Peters, the director), however, did help. It cleverly used a small space to create ambience and a little world in which we were allowed to peer in to. It helps to switch between past, present and future smoothly with a just a simple rig and two large bulbs either side which change colour. It is simple and yet effectively demonstrates the time in which we are in while personifying the message of the piece. It creates a language for the audience to understand that is not only aesthetically pleasing but reduces the need for exposition, as it clearly demonstrates the concept of the show.
Although the play lacked the burst of energy it needs to really encapsulate the audience, there were moments of clarity and connection between the pair. Perhaps it is just about taking ownership of the piece more, as a more consistent level of commitment to the piece could have potentially made for a very dynamic and powerful evening.
Reviewed by Emily Roberts