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REVIEW: Constellations at The Barn Theatre, Cirencester

Constellations at The Barn Theatre

Written by Nick Payne
Directed by Jessica Daniels
The Barn Theatre, Cirencester
Tuesday, 2 April 2024

Rating: ★★★★★

Book tickets here>


What if you had done things differently?  What if you had told your bestie that you fancied him?  Or accepted that travel scholarship, rather than staying at home to look after your dad?  Or written that film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, set in a colony of badgers?   What if you hadn’t run over your boss’s stupid dog?  Or hadn’t told your bestie that you fancied her?  Or hadn’t married the chiropodist who gave you carnations and corn plasters, but someone else his heart?
Well … the thing is, you did do things differently.  Just … not in this universe.
Nick Payne’s Olivier award-winning Constellations is a moving, mind-bending love story: a touching and thought-provoking Large-Hadron collision of romance and quantum physics.  The story is set across multiple universes, where all possible outcomes are potentially in play:

“In the quantum multiverse, every choice, every decision you’ve ever and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes.”

Constellations with Faye Brookes and Tom Lorcan

On one level, Constellations is structured like a conventional love story.  All the obligatory elements are present:  the fanciable protagonists, Mariane and Roland (played by former Corrie stars Faye Brookes and Tom Lorcan); the heart-melting ‘meet-cute’, set at a rainy barbecue; the proposal, with the bashful male protagonist acting the doofus; the seemingly insurmountable obstacles to love.

We quickly realise, however, that this is not a conventional love story.  The narrative is not linear, but splintered.  Scenes suddenly stop, then repeat, folding over themselves in ever-decreasing loops.  Each twist of the kaleidoscope brings new variations in the characters’ emotional states, behaviours and dialogue, leading to different outcomes.  Time flows not just backwards and forwards, but in all directions.  This might sound difficult to follow, but the fragmented narrative is no more baffling than the average episode of Doctor Who.  If you don’t understand the physics, ask a seven-year-old.
Faye Brookes and Tom Lorcan are equally outstanding as the two lovers.  They are both incredibly watchable; their characterisations are nuanced, well observed and emotionally truthful; and their delivery of the technically challenging script is flawless.  It is a privilege to watch performances of this calibre.

Constellations is on at The Barn Theatre in Cirencester until 18 May 2024

Director Jessica Daniels has kept the action spare and tight, bringing the curtain down after an exhilarating 70 minutes without interval.  Set and Costume Designer Ethan Cheek has provided a playing space that is alternatively harsh and brutal, or soft and warm, depending on the lighting state.  Black tabs, above and below the stage, create the sense that we are viewing in cinematic widescreen.  A rectangular mirror, leaning unused against a wall, hints at dimensions reachable only through a looking-glass.  Hector Murray’s sophisticated lighting design and Amanda Priestly’s incisive sound design – the aural equivalent of Philip Pullman’s “subtle knife” (ask the kids) – combine perfectly to mark the transitions between universes.

As well as a tender romance, Constellations is a fascinating philosophy lesson, with meditations on free will and the nature of time.  It reaches the consoling conclusion that love exists in a dimension beyond our understanding of past, present or future.

Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes (no interval)

Constellations runs at the Barn Theatre, Cirencester, until Saturday 18 May 2024

Reviewer: © Paul Sharples
Explore Gloucestershire
3 April 2024

Photo credits: © Alex Tabrizi

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