By Lucia Rimini
‘Imagine rolling the dice 6,000 times’. This line, delivered by Marianne, one of the two central characters in Nick Payne’s Constellations, perhaps best encapsulates the central idea of this play, in which the two characters live out multiple possible versions of various instances in their lives, each prompting the audience to consider the infinite possibilities of each scenario. Directed by Thomas Leadbeater and Amy Noriko Ward for the Squabbling House Theatre Company, the whirlwind 80 minute production takes the audience through the relationship of the two characters, Roland (John Chisham) and Marianne (Hattie Patten-Chatfield). Marianne, a physicist working in quantum cosmology, meets Roland, a beekeeper, and informs him that ‘in the quantum multiverse, every choice, every decision you’ve ever and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes’. It is this theory that sits at the heart of the production, and sees the various potential outcomes of each scenario unfold in complex and nuanced ways.
From the very start, it was clear that in this play, where the same scene is often repeated word for word multiple times, the brilliance of the acting would lie in the subtleties. The opening scene shows the first meeting of Roland and Marianne, and despite being performed five times with each version was strikingly different from the last, made so through the beautifully emotive and wonderfully amusing facial expressions, body language and vocal tones of the actors.
The demands of the play were obvious from the outset; there are only two characters, neither of whom leave the stage at any point, and due to the structure of the play, the actors were required to shift in seconds from the portrayal of one extreme emotion to another. However, these were demands expertly tackled by the actors, and resulted in a fast-paced, emotionally impactful production.
Overall, Constellations is a stunningly directed and performed production, which has the audience moved in seconds from laughter to being on the verge of tears. It is an intensely human play, with scenes exploring both the deep complexities and awkward and amusing moments of life and love. John and Hattie’s performances as Roland and Marianne are spellbinding, and it altogether is a charming and promising debut play from Squabbling House Theatre Company.