Constellations, Duke of York’s Theatre, November 2012

Actions have consequences, but change the action very slightly and the consequences change. That is the theme of this two-hander with Roland (Rafe Spall) a bee-keeper representing the simple, reliable world of bees, and Marianne (Sally Hawkins) a highly-strung particle physicist representing the complexities of the quantum world.

In quantum physics a particle can be in multiple states, unknown and undetermined until compelled to choose by interacting with another particle. Such is the philosophy behind Schrödinger’s Cat, which is both alive and dead at the same time until the box is opened. Projecting quantum indeterminacy into the real world leads either to nothing unusual, as all the tiny indeterminacies cancel out, or to parallel universes. This play goes for the latter.

Marianne and Roland, image/ Johan Persson

The heart of the matter is love, marriage, infidelity, and terminal illness. Each brief scene is replayed with slight variations, leading sometimes to no real change, at other times to entirely different consequences. In between the replays are some very fine lighting tricks as the stage goes dark and lights come on again in a different form. I loved the scenes in which he proposes marriage, to be rejected or accepted or simply to lose the plot.

At first it all seems to be going very slowly, yet we see the vicissitudes of two lives, and everything is over in 70 minutes. Fine direction by Michael Longhurst and wonderful lighting by Lee Curran for Nick Payne’s imaginative play that has transferred from the Jerwood Theatre, upstairs at the Royal Court, to the West End. Audiences see the disquieting prospect of parallel worlds allowing replays of life’s little interactions, and life itself.

Performances continue January 5 — for details click here.

One Response to “Constellations, Duke of York’s Theatre, November 2012”

  1. Saw this Upstairs at the Royal Court, was absolutely wonderful, but hesitant about how well it will transfer from an intimate, in the round location, to a major stage…

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