Constellations at Bristol Old Vic

Image by Helen Maybanks, with thanks
Image by Helen Maybanks, with thanks

If the universe consists of infinite realities then everything that has ever happened and will ever happen is simultaneously occurring, right now.

This is the concept that underpins Constellations, playing at the Bristol Old Vic until May 30th.

This is a 2 person piece about a relationship between Marianne and Roland and we follow their story from awkward initial meet and courtship through to its untimely conclusion. Marianne, played by Louise Brealey, is a lecturer in quantum theory and introduces us and Roland, played by Joe Armstrong, to the concept of multiple realities. This idea is brought to life as each scene between the characters is played over several times, the lights briefly dimming and flashing as the actors reset for another pass over the dialogue. Sometimes it’s identical to the previous run through but delivered by the other character, sometimes there are subtle changes in specific words or mood but each reading provides a different take on the story.

This repetition made me reflect and wonder about situations from my own life, what if I had said something better? How would things be different now?

Unfortunately for our characters the main arc of the story unfolds regardless of how each scene progresses and we learn of Marianne’s fate through some excellently acted flash forward pieces. There are also some genuinely funny moments of dialogue –  who knew that cosmology and porn had so many cross-over references!?

The scenery of the piece was very simple. A mesmerising backdrop provided by strobing white balloons served as the cue that a scene change was about to happen and the actors repositioned swiftly in the darkness in snappy, well rehearsed movements.

This is ultimately a play about choice vs destiny. From one moment to the next the almost infinite choices that are before Marianne and Roland offer different ways for them to live their lives. However, neither of them seem to be able to provide escape from what lies ahead.

At 70 minutes, with no interval, it felt like it was over quite quickly but with the rapid fire scene changes the length was just about right. I thoroughly enjoyed this show, it was engaging, though provoking and quite moving and I highly recommend it.

Constellations is at Brisol Old Vic until 30th May


– Review by Dave Blake


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