The Donmar West End production of Constellations launches its first two casts in Sheila Atim & Ivanno Jeremiah and Peter Capaldi & Zoë Wanamaker at the Vaudeville Theatre
“One drink. And if you never want to see me again you never have to see me again.”
With the Donmar currently getting a lick of paint, Michael Longhurst has decided to revive his production of Nick Payne’s Constellations with a pandemic-friendly attention-grabbing model that fits neatly with Payne’s exploration of the multiverse. Four different casts take on the two-hander over the run, pushing it variously in terms of age, sexuality and race.
As if there was any doubting this is a show I like, you can read my reviews from upstairs at the Royal Court to its West End transfer to its bow on Broadway to the UK tour which also popped into the West End. And it is a real pleasure to be able to delve back into its playful structure which tracks the infinite possibilities of the relationship between quantum physicist Marianne and beekeeper Roland.
Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah’s youthful exuberance is a sexy and striking surprise. Fierce and funny, there’s a deep feeling to this interpretation that resonates powerfully from the off. Closer to the ages of the characters as written, the peaks and troughs of the emotional journey here are sharply observed and consequently pack a huge punch to the feels.
Zoë Wanamaker and Peter Capaldi do make the play feel somewhat different. Initially, it does perhaps strike you as too overtly theatrical as the meet-cute(s) feel too much like them playing ‘young’. But once troubles and tragedy kick in, the weight of their experience carries through so strongly, Wanamaker proving particularly heart-breaking with just a look.
But for all I love about the play, and appreciate about this production, there is a slight nagging sense here too. It is essentially the original production revived four times in the same way, and it’s hard not to wonder what a little directorial innovation could bring here (you just know van Hove would have had all four casts performing it at the same time!).
So ultimately I’m not sure there’s quite enough here to merit the recommendation that you should pay West End prices to see it four times, no matter how fascinating Tom Scutt’s design and the synaptic flashes of Lee Curran’s lighting and David McSeveney’s sound. But you should definitely pick one of the four (and then stalk the website for the £20 front stalls seats that keep popping up and go and see one other as well).