‘Constellations’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by June 8, 2018

‘Constellations’ is a cleverly structured and intelligently written adult play, crafted by 34 year old British dramatist, Nick Payne. Despite being so young, Nick – who has a Drama degree from York University – has in ten years, written 16 plays, a film script and a TV series. His plays have starred major actors from England, and in the US Jake Gyllenhaal appeared as Roland in this version, which went on to win ‘Best Play of the Year’.

Written in a genre similar to that of Tom Stoppard, it was published only six years ago.

The script and structure becomes a little weird but only for a minute or two, with a passage explaining relativity, quantum physics and cosmology. In physics something like gravity is constant, so gravity has no yesterday, today or tomorrow as it is always the same. Seems a bit heavy? Don’t worry too much if you get lost in the intricacy, it is irrelevant to the main storyline and is simply a tongue-in-cheek joke by the author. However, the play is beautifully written and has been made extremely approachable for everyone.

This production is presented by the Irish Theatre Players, in the Irish Club Theatre at 61 Townshend Road, Subiaco. The 70-minute show (no interval) has ‘curtain-up’ at 8.00 pm on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until Saturday 16th June. There is one matinée on Sunday 10th June at 2.00 pm.

It stars Paul Davey who was awarded the 2017 ‘Best Actor Award’, and Madelaine Jones (née Page) one of Perth’s secret talents who once gave us a magnificent Shakespeare’s Juliet.

The sets: There are several very different scene locations in the play, but as the script calls for minimal props and the dialogue is so richly written, visual stimulation would be a distraction. Laura Heffernan, the designer (for set, costumes and lighting) has presented us with a dark charcoal room free from doors, windows and any adornment. The minimal furnishings were a 1.8 m circular couch chair centre stage, and four chairs also in charcoal. Everything was splattered with ethylene glycol paint, which reacted wonderfully to the changing light colours and effects, especially the UV light.

The scene: Modern day in southern England.

The lighting technician was John Spurling, who handled Laura Heffernan’s complex lighting sensitively and precisely.

Daniel David Toomath is developing an enviable reputation for his dramatic soundscapes. Most of his musical backings are self-penned and produced; at times the impeccable accompaniment was minimal and barely perceptible – perfect for the situation. Many TV shows could learn from Daniel’s technique.

The show’s liaison and stage management was smoothly handled by Caroline McDonnell, with the actors receiving special instruction in ‘a skill’ from Sonya Martin and Melissa Templeton.

 

     Astro-physicist, Marianne (Maddy Jones) is at a friend’s BBQ when she spots a handsome young man, Roland (Paul Davey) and decides to use her female seductive talents. When she stuffs it up, the play does a re-wind and gives her a second chance with a different approach. We then go back a few minutes in time, now it is Roland who has spotted Marianne, and we see his amorous tactics.

      The couple link up and we learn that Roland is an apiarist, and explains to Marianne all about his beekeeping. We then follow the couple over the next couple of years.

 

This ‘two-header’ play takes us through situations that we have all experienced, including some that make us wish that we too could have had a second or third chance. The dialogue is at times hilarious, with plenty of belly laughs and then sometimes the humour is so subtle that one is a little reticent to laugh.

The magnificent actors give us hilarity, anger, distress and tragedy. Changing their characterisations in a split second, the couple conquered their voice tones, body language and mental approach perfectly. Don’t be shy, just go for it – laugh and cry your way through this wonderful dramatic piece.

The play was a major challenge for director Brendan Ellis, who recently shone with his direction of ‘Cloudstreet’, but by choosing such a talented cast he has given us 70 minutes of first class theatre. This is the best two-header I have seen in 20 years; presented flawlessly. It is a cleverly written, intelligent play with dialogue that will make the audience think, and is a most satisfying production, well-conceived and superbly acted.

One of the year’s top productions. Highly recommended.