Review: Constellations, Barn Theatre

The Barn Theatre makes an ambitious leap with a revival of Nick Payne’s peerless play Constellations

“We have all the time we always had…”

Given that I went to New York to see Ruth Wilson and Jake Gyllenhaal take on Nick Payne’s two-hander, I couldn’t really make the case not to go to Cirencester to see the latest revival of Constellations. It’s a drama I’ve followed as much as I can since it premiered upstairs at the Royal Court, from its West End transfer to that bow on Broadway, from the UK tour which also popped into the West End to the Southwark Playhouse production which never happened (very in keeping with the play!) to the multi-cast return to the West End post-pandemic.

Here, Jessica Daniels’ production is nicely released from that parent Michael Longhurst direction and iconic Tom Scutt design that has previously prevailed – twelve years down the line, I think we can take a new aesthetic for the show! Ethan Cheek’s vision draws imaginatively from labyrinthine design with use of mirrors adding unexpected depth, with Hector Murray’s lighting design working with shadow as much as light itself. As a creative reimagining of something so familiar to me, it really did work.

The play itself remains as powerful as it ever has. Following beekeeper Roland and quantum physicist Marianne through the many complications and connections that love and life has to offer, it posits something deeply profound about the possibilities of different possible and parallel universes, playing and replaying scenes between the pair with ever-changing results or perhaps always the same result, such is the multi-dimensional complexity of their relationship as presented here.

It sounds a lot, and sometimes it is with some moments of extraordinary emotional power, but it is this density that means it rewards repeated viewings as different things come into focus each time. Faye Brookes and Tom Lorcan do well to put their own stamp on the characters but the truth is that the writing is so playful in its infinite variety as its changing consequences unfold and refold back on each other that you can’t help but marvel.

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