first night

Constellations

Claire Simonis takes a trip to The Assembly Rooms Theatre with LTC's latest production.

Nick Payne’s Constellations offers an innovative take on the unfolding of love and life. In this all-female adaptation, we follow the story of Marianne and Rachel (originally Roland) from the beginning of their relationship and through the subsequent trajectories of their lives. Early on in the play Marianne, a scientist, teaches Rachel, a beekeeper, about string theory: the theory that other versions of ourselves exist and make alternative decisions in other universes. This potent idea is executed in a very exciting way in Payne’s play, as many scenes within the play are almost repeated. Each parallel scene depicts the characters making alternative choices and experiencing multiple outcomes. Things go right and things go wrong, but the fun and equally heartbreaking part is that the audience get to experience both in Lion Theatre Company’s production.

As a chronic over-thinker myself, it was very satisfying to witness two people replay scenarios and have the opportunity to make different choices and/or say the thing they wished they could have said. Every almost-repeated scene was infused with a vibrant reimagining. The dexterity of both actresses, Annie Davison (Marianne) and Izzy Mitchell (Rachel), was remarkable. The shifts between the parallel scenes happened incredibly quickly and the emotional gear changes that were required were enormous. Watching the actresses embrace this challenge with such relentless flexibility was as emotionally exhausting as it was thrilling.

Annie Davison was exceptional in her portrayal of the neurotic Marianne. Her performance radiated energy but also struck an authentic and vulnerable chord. Izzy Mitchell’s grounded performance as the calmer Rachel complimented Davison’s extremely well. While Rachel may have been the calmer character, Mitchell handled her moments of frustration and hurt wonderfully. Both actresses paid special attention to their physicality, which was both believable and instrumental in the sensitive storytelling of the piece.

The character of Rachel refers many times to the “quiet elegance” of bees, and it is this quiet elegance that seems to have permeated nearly every aspect of the play. Jasmine Price’s highly attuned directing choices were superb, giving the piece a quiet groundedness among the raw human emotions portrayed. The specificity of musical choices, which charted the tumultuous emotions of the characters, was also excellent. The audience’s chairs were placed on the stage of The Assembly Rooms Theatre, fostering a novel intimacy between audience and actors. While the close proximity of actor and audience was fantastic for the play’s more subtle moments, including a poignant scene featuring sign language, it meant that some moments of choreography did not read as well as they would have with some more distance. The subtle lighting was evocative and matched the production’s sensitivity, and the use of multiple mirrors in the minimalist staging was a fantastic choice. It created the interesting feeling of multiple actresses (and audience members) in a two-hander play. An additional mention must be made of the detail in Davison’s performance. Her entire body was rooted in the role of Marianne. Her back could be facing the audience yet, with the clever use of mirrors, the audience could still see her face. Davison’s unwavering attention to detail meant that her back, face, hands, body and voice all worked in exquisite harmony to create a profoundly moving performance.

Constellations made me feel things. The play balanced moments of wonderfully neurotic humour with moments of devastation, all the while remaining understated. The production team fully understood the subtle undertones of the play and brought them to life with profound delicacy. Constellations shows two imperfect people experiencing the beautiful mess that is life. Every aspect of the play, from the script to the direction to the performances, was executed with a sensitivity that never faltered in either energy or focus. If you fancy being profoundly moved or feeling the proverbial feels, go and see this production.

3 February 2017

The views expressed in the reviews and comments on this page are those of the reviewer, and are not representative of the views of DST or Durham University.
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