The journey through to the seats in the Jerwood Upstairs Theatre involves manoeuvring through a jungle of silver ribbons hanging from helium filled balloons* and those above the simple, black rectangular stage are back lit which creates an interesting other-world/molecular effect. Which is of course appropriate in more than one way (you'll have to see the play for a full understanding)
Nick Payne's new piece is about free-will and whether your life is pre-destined, written in the stars I suppose. It is cleverly told as a two-hander, sort of linear story about Marianne (Sally Hawkins) and Roland (Rafe Spall) and how their lives interact.
However, as this is about free-will vs pre-destination each scene is played out several times with subtle differences to the characters behaviour and outcomes. The result is a series of story threads which interweave with only Marianne, Roland and the location of each scene as the constants.
The enjoyment, aside from its cleverness, is watching the actors work through different shades of their character's personality in quick succession. It almost feels like you are stealing a peak through a crack in the rehearsal room door. A flash of light creates a beat between each version of the scene and the transformations are instant.
I'm not sure what conclusions you can draw from Constellations. It does demonstrate the infinite possibilities and sometimes seismic shift in outcome that can emerge from the subtlest difference in behaviour or decision-making. It is also funny and moving and a treat to watch actors of Hawkins and Spall's ability, flexing their acting muscles in such an unusual way.
I'm going to give it four and a half stars.
Constellations runs at the Jerwood Upstairs at the Royal Court until Feb 11. It's sold out but extra tickets are released for Monday evening performances on the day at 9am. Grab one, well worth it especially as they are only £10.
* I really wanted to 'borrow' one for the 'Favourite theatre things' collection but thought better of it.
As there are only two actors I feel compelled to find a connection each. So here goes, Sally Hawkins was in Layer Cake which Mr W was also in, not sure if they had any scenes together but there are several third and fourth degree connections which @polyg always poo poo's but they are there and involve the likes of Keira Knightly and Romola Garai.
Rafe Spall is a second degree connection as he was in Desperate Romantics which also feature the lovely Samuel Barnett who was in Bright Star with Mr W.