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Constellations review (Burnt Orange Theatre)

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On Friday evening I returned to the Drayton Arms Theatre in Kensington to review Burnt Orange Theatre’s production of Nick Payne’s ‘Constellations’. Twelve years since the play debuted, the London-based youth theatre company have brought Roland and Marianne’s story to life in a new way, mimicking the starry themes of Payne’s critically acclaimed work and reimagining the script so that multiple actors can play the two core roles. The production played for 5 performances this week, as part of the company’s latest season, following last week’s rendition of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’. After being impressed by the talent in their first production, I was looking forward to seeing how the company would take on Nick Payne’s intimate play and adapt it for a cast of 14 actors.

Constellations by Nick Payne programme in front of The Drayton Arms Theatre stage, London

About the play

Constellations looks at the relationship between Roland and Marianne, a beekeeper and physicist. With completely different personalities, the phrase ‘opposites attract’ seems appropriate, with the passionate Marianne frequently talking about their interest in space and stars, which is world’s away from the level headed and reserved Roland. What makes this play unique is its repetitive structure, exploring quantum multiverse theory and the various ways that their love story could pan out, across different universes and timelines.

A cast of 14 performers

The two-hander has been adapted into an ensemble piece, with the entire REP company having a chance to play either Roland or Marianne. Even with 7 people playing each character, there are defined principal versions of Roland or Marianne in each scene, who are responsible for controlling the pacing of the repeating dialogue and highlighting how life could have gone differently at each point in their relationship. With this creative decision, director Rosie Thomas has clearly thought about the overall structure of the play, providing time for the audience to get to know the individual interpretations of each character.

Nick Payne's Constellations (Burnt Orange Theatre) production photo
© Phoebe Sule of Adedoja Visuals

My only criticism would be that choosing to present the story in this way forgoes there being a central Roland or Marianne. As a member of the audience you get used to multiple enactments of the characters and consequently a collective idea of who they are rather than specific people.

Atmospheric lighting design

From the moment that I walked into the theatre, the twinkling lights in the background captured my attention, mimicking a collection of stars in the night sky. This, combined with various stage lights in cool colours, helps to create a dreamy, nighttime atmosphere on stage. As the joy in their relationship starts to be replaced by apprehension about the future, the lighting reflects this change in tone, with Technical Manager Mason Dilworth withdrawing the effects during moments of sadness.

Nick Payne's Constellations (Burnt Orange Theatre) production photo
© Phoebe Sule of Adedoja Visuals

Cast performances

The standout performers include Florence Chevallier and Kaci Kerwick in their roles of the future Roland and Marianne. They contributed so much emotion to the play, particularly through Kaci’s sensitive depiction of the struggling Marianne. I only wish that they would have had more time to explore the complicated, latter years of their relationship on stage. The script is heavily weighted towards the carefree days, rather than the later, more emotional period. 

Nick Payne's Constellations (Burnt Orange Theatre) production photo
© Phoebe Sule of Adedoja Visuals

Furthermore, Eithne Garricks’ portrayal of Marianne coming to terms with her future is deeply moving. I thought that they approached the difficult themes with compassion, displaying the personal torment in a believable and heartfelt way.

Constellations by Nick Payne programme in front of The Drayton Arms Theatre, London

Final thoughts

This thoughtful, ensemble-focused version of Constellations is an emotional interpretation of Nick Payne’s work. With delicate lighting design, the play is a brilliant conclusion to the company’s season, acting as a complete contrast to last week’s ‘The Tempest’. I have really enjoyed watching both shows at the Drayton Arms. You can find out more about Burnt Orange Theatre’s projects over on their website.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Love Kat xxxx

*My ticket for Constellations was gifted in exchange for an unbiased review.



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