Somewhere out there in a parallel universe: Constellations

Nick Payne's Constellations takes a quantum mechanics view of a love story. The basics of this is that in one universe the outcome is A and in another universe the outcome is B. And there begins a story about Marianne and Roland. They meet at a barbeque and develop a relationship. Or in a parallel world they don't as he is there with his wife. She is a scientist and he is a beekeeper in Tower Hamlets (somewhat inspired by London-based urban beekeeper Steve Benbow and there is Constellations honey available in the foyer). And thus begins a series of fragments of a relationship that together tell a story of a number of different possibilities that it could take.

While the premise of this piece threatens to feel repetitive (or at least a bit like Groundhog Day meets Love Story), over its short but perfectly formed running length a range of scenarios play out that simply highlight some of the quirks and eccentricities of their relationship. Holding it all together is the wonderful performances of Sally Hawkins and Rafe Spall who bounce off each other as they shift from downbeat to enthusiastic in a flash. Literally. As complimenting the performances is a series of globes and baloons that flash to reset scenes. Watching them is a real treat.

Along with some clever light effects and balloons are a series of sound effects that are suggest where the story is heading. This is somewhat reassuring when the piece is at times often resetting and repeating itself. Of course at the Duke of York's there is also the sound of the London Underground to contend with, but in this piece with its semi-regular rumbles and groans it feels like a contributor to this etherial drama not a distraction.

The exploration of the human drama in this story is interesting enough so the introduction of a major life changing event feels a bit of a distraction, particularly as the fragmented nature of the work makes it hard to be as emotionally connected to it in same way of a drama with a more conventional narrative. But overall it is an enjoyable meditation on a romance.

The show had its first outing at the Royal Court earlier this year and has a limited run as part of the Royal Court at the Duke of York's Theatre until January. It is a great little after work diversion that won't keep you too long at the theatre yet possibly give you pause for thought. And if you don't like it, you at least can take comfort in the fact that somewhere out there in a parallel uniververse you are raving about the piece...

Photo credit: Johan Persson

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