Imagine a world where time doesn’t exist, at least not in the linear, beginning-to-end fashion that we are familiar with. In Constellations, that’s what scientist Marianne does for a living, exploring theories of quantum physics and the excitingly scary thought that many universes could all exist at the same time.
Written by UK playwright Nick Payne and produced by Queensland Theatre for World Science Festival, this show embraces theoretical science at its core. With every choice that the two characters, Marianne and Roland, make, a new universe branches off, infinite timelines continuing on, parallel and apart.
Jessica Tovey and Lucas Stibbard inhabit their characters entirely, from perfecting their distinct accents to making the tiny adjustments of character warranted by each of the choices which lead to the different arms of the story. Along with director Kat Henry, they have taken to the challenge of repeating the same scenes in the different timelines cleverly, working to find the humour in some moments, the poignancy in others.
With the simultaneous and repeating storylines, there are some moments when this production seems a little repetitive, despite the adjustments of the actors. While the intention may be to enhance the effectiveness of particularly touching scenes, some large parts of repeated text can wear on the attention of the audience. It may be that this is a challenge set by the playwright that isn’t quite risen to in this production, or that the script is not quite as finely tuned as it could be.
The set and lighting designs of this production are among its best features. A beautifully constructed and lit raised platform allows for potentially confusing quick shifts between time and space to be performed with clarity. A deep blue, reflective surface on the playing space adds another dimension to the portrayal of concurrent universes, with watery, mirror image versions of the actors always on show. Props and realistic set pieces are unnecessary with this simple and effective brand of visual storytelling, and designer Anthony Spinaze and lighting designer Ben Hughes should be commended on their work.
Another key element drawing the show together is the compelling sound design by Guy Webster. Working in tandem with the visuals, the near constant soundtrack also eases shifts between time and space, while providing a sense of continuity and mood. Though not intrusive, the soundtrack works to promotes audience engagement with what is happening on stage.
Constellations is full of intriguing ideas about the human condition, scientific knowledge and storytelling. It is exciting to see a production that marries ideas of science and theatre in the ways that this show seeks to. Hopefully, with showcase opportunities like World Science Festival, we will continue to see many more.
Queensland Theatre presents
by Nick Payne
Director Kat Henry
Venue: Bille Brown Studio, Queensland Theatre
Dates: 9 March – 9 April 2017
Tickets: $35 – $68