Constellations: Reviewed

I don’t understand quantum physics. I don’t understand string theory. I have no idea how to keep bees.

I understand quantum physics. I try to understand bits of string theory. I still have no idea how to keep bees.

I don’t understand quantum physics. I don’t understand string theory. I am a beekeeper.

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There are times when you are reviewing that you realise writing anything down is stupid. It’s stupid because you want to watch what is in front of you so much, and writing something would break the spell of the story unfolding before you. A stupid thing to do.

Alexander Gillespie’s production of Constellations was special. It is a special script, but a difficult one—a script dscf1207which could easily fall into mundaneness or cliché. I reckon the most difficult thing to do effectively in theatre is simplicity.
If it isn’t done well it looks, well, a bit crap. But Constellations managed to get this simplicity right. In a change from Gillespie’s previous productions, this was a two-person cast, staged in-the-round with fewer bells and whistles.

 

This was a production with an eye on detail: from the programmes sculpted into origami changers to the pieces of material hanging above the stage, Gillespie (alongside producer Danielle Donnally) had clearly thought about the best ways to get Nick Payne’s script to the audience. Thisdscf1239-1 was a team who cared about their audience and their play. A light directorial touch, simple set, and two fabulous actors meant that Payne’s script was the focus of the production, spiralling through over fifty ‘possibilities’ of a relationship:

  • He has a wife. It couldn’t happen.
  • She cheated on him once.
  • He thought about cheating on her.
  • He runs into her (accidentally?) after the relationship is over.
  • Staying together because he’s scared of being alone.
  • Staying together because you work together.

Attention to detail was replicated in the acting, with every gesture and movement carried out by Kate Kitchens (Marianne) and Jared Liebmiller (Roland) perfectly placed. Kitchens and Liebmiller are great actors in their own rights. But – far more importantly – they are fantastic together. The chemistry between the two leapt off the stage throughout the play, their relationship bouncing from joyful to heart-breaking to funny to playful, and back again, within moments. They managed to be ‘entirely right’, ‘entirely wrong’, and ‘everything in-between’ all at the same time (or maybe not at any time at all. I still do not understand science despite really wanting to.)

Sure, there were things that I didn’t like as much: I thought it was a shame the scenes weren’t allowed to land with more of a beat before starting the next iteration of the pair, and the lights could have changed more definitively at points so it was crystal clear that we were changing universe. But the point of student theatre – any theatre – isn’t to be 100%-bang-on-the-nail-10/10-perfect.  And, even if that was the point, Constellations came pretty damn close.

To me, moments of silence are the most telling in a theatre, and the silent moments in Constellations were so absolutely and resolutely silent that there were points where I held my breath lest I disturb someone on the other side of the stage. Kitchens and Liebmiller had the audience so totally behind them and their millions of relationships that there was a real sense of us collectively willing them together.

dscf1235Maybe the reason it felt so special was because it was a one-night event, but I think it was probably more than that. Theatre in St Andrews is often good. It is often thought-
provoking. It is rarely boring. Constellations was better than ‘good student theatre’. Constellations was better than ‘thought-provoking’. Constellations was certainly better than ‘boring’. And you know what, I’m fairly sure it was fantastic in every iteration of the multiverse.

5/5 Owlies

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