Before you read this – get online and book Constellations at the Bille Brown Studio.

Okay so you’ve got tickets (hopefully they haven’t sold out). What can you expect to see? An intelligent, engrossing play that will/should (I’m not sure which modal to use) change how you view your life.

Plot-wise – it’s about two people (Roland played by Lucas Stibbard and Marianne played by Jessica Tovey) who meet, fall in love, experience infidelity, split, and reconnect – uniting these events is an unfolding metanarrative about life, death and control. Nothing special, you think – be prepared to un-think that thought.

Nick Payne (British playwright) delivers a quotidian love story though the prism of a multiverse where several (infinite by suggestion) ‘realities’ exist. The story bounces from possibility to possibility as each phase is re-presented; the completely undoes the HEA (happily ever after) audiences have come to expect from mainstream tales as it replaces the grand narrative with multiple other options.

Particularly effective is the signed argument.

The tessellated set is an effective representation of the linear; its beehiveness becomes a signifier for Roland’s occupation. The choreography, posture and placement, is of import. Yes, it’s a play that has your mind buzzing.

Yes. I’m being vague because I don’t want to overdetermine how audiences (you I mean) will experience the play. Be patient, it might seem a little disjointed at first but, like any good narrative, as it unfolds it weaves its string theory around you. It packs a lot of quantum mechanics (QM) and love into 70 minutes.

Speaking of QM; the play obliquely references Schrödinger’s cat and the difference between determinism (the butterfly effect) and probability. Mary, the cosmologist, wants ‘choice’ (determinism) but recognizes at the end that probability is the likely driving factor based on QM (the multiverse and ‘always having time’). But…

Schrödinger gave a talk (1952) in which he said that the equations for which he won the Nobel Prize predicted different parallel histories that were ‘not alternatives, but all really happen simultaneously’. So each version of their story is not an alternative; they ALL occurred, and Mary’s comment about always having time embraces these parallel universes/stories. The play’s ending shows one reality but implies an infinite number.

The play gestures to much more—not all scientists believe in the multiverse. Other theories are posited if only obliquely.

This is an exceptional play – the direction, performances, staging and lighting are superb. I have one question, why attempt the English accents? The play works perfectly well without that affectation. I mean, the name Roland is enough to situate the audience. Hey – we’re a Game of Thrones generation. But maybe there are existing audiences that haven’t seen Game of Thrones.

 

Banner image: Lucas Stibbard and Jessica Tovey

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