Experimental Theatre Club are presenting the first ever amateur production of Nick Payne’s Constellations at the O’Reilly this week, and it’s definitely worth a watch. The audience is taken on a journey through the ‘infinite possiblities’ of Marianne and Roland’s relationship, flipping backwards and forwards in time to different possible events and interchanges, with strings of slightly altered versions that never settle on one definite, linear story. It is a searching look at intimacy in relationships as well as the ways we interact, the words and actions we choose wielding the power to impact the whole course of a relationship.
The play presents a huge challenge for actors in a variety of ways – luckily, Calam Lynch and Shanon Hayes are more than up to the task. Constellations runs unbroken for just over an hour, and the lack of props and set as well as the exposure of being in the round means everything hinges entirely on the strength and interplay of the two people on stage. They had a wonderful chemistry, tackling the heavy subject matter with great sensitivity and depth of emotion. Sharp switches from scenes of high-voltage drama to sweetly awkward meetings at a ballroom dancing class gave them scope to show off their versatility and focus. A scene conducted entirely in sign language was particularly moving, and their electric hold on the audience allowed the humorous moments to really shine against these deeper portrayals of human interaction and connection.
Set and lighting designer Chris Burr did a great job of providing atmosphere with simple, minimal additions to the stage; the hanging transparent structures, cleverly enhanced with coloured lighting, successfully emulated the ‘intergalactic element’ of the play as was intended, while adding a slightly ethereal quality relevant to the almost mystical concept being explored. The choice to present Constellations in the round was another success, bringing the audience right in to Marianne and Roland’s world, literally viewing their relationship from all angles as the play searches through a plethora of possibilities.
If I had to criticize anything, it would be the amount the actors tended to move around the stage during realistic conversations, appearing slightly unnatural; however, this arguably mirrored the constant fluidity and movement of the couple’s relationship, ideas, feelings and situations, and didn’t really impact on my enjoyment at all. Marianne and Roland seem to inhabit a world of their own, where their spatial interplay matters more than maintaining complete naturalism.
Sammy Glover and Aoife Cantril have directed a moving, well-paced, thoughtful production of Nick Payne’s award-winning play with wonderful performances, tackling a challenging concept with aplomb – and it’s selling out fast, so get your tickets now!