Review: Constellations by Singapore Repertory Theatre

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Having received critical acclaim when it played on Broadway, we were very excited about the premiere of Constellations in Singapore. Written by Nick Payne in 2012, Constellations is a love story set across parallel worlds in a multiverse, where protagonists Roland and Marianne engage with a series of possibilities and alternate realities.

Roland (Edward Harrison) is an inhibited and introverted beekeeper, surrounded by creatures with a singular purposes in their very short lives. Meanwhile the boisterous Marianne (Stephanie Street) made up the other half of the couple, finding her passion in string theory and theoretical physics. String theory, in short, is a theoretical concept in physics that posits the existence of parallel universes, where there are simultaneous instances of the same people and situations happening across an infinite number of alternate realities.

Constellations brings this concept to the fore and applies it in earnest to its narrative. Over its 80 minute duration, Nick Payne’s script presents a series of vignettes centering on Roland and Marianne across various parallel universes, the same setting and conversation, but different each time. It’s a bit more work than usual for a play, and utterly unique in its execution. Director Bruce Guthrie manages to make it very accessible though, and handily unpacks the themes of endless possibilities and infinite outcomes.

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Constellations hinges heavily on its two actors’ performances, and luckily for us, both Harrison and Street’s skills were absolutely unparalleled and a breath of fresh air to Singapore’s current art scene. Harrison and Street share a strong onstage chemistry and feed off of each other’s energy to build up the entire multiverse. Each vignette was similar enough to get drawn into the cycle of familiarity, but both actors also managed to make them distinct from each other, and overall delivered a stellar performance full of emotions. Guthrie’s frenzied pacing kept the play constantly interesting, with the mood swinging back and forth, where in one hilarious moment Marianne could be desperately tries to impress Roland and in the next, a devastating and dark future loomed over the horizon for the couple, and was riveting and innovative enough to show that theatre-making was far from its limits, and still had the ability to stun audiences in creative ways.

Special mention goes out to the ingenious lighting design by Gabriel Chan and sound design by Lee Yew Jin of Ctrl Fre@k, which helped depict the play’s changing realities and landscapes, shifting fluidly from one to another. The lighting grid in particular aptly enhanced the portrayal of alternate dimensions, creating multiple possibilities and adding depth to the play’s dialogue.

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Post-show dialogue with: Edward Harrison, Stephanie Street, Alison Neighbour (Production Designer) and Bruce Guthrie (Director)

Constellations provides the audience with a simple hypothesis of possible realities and how time and space is all relative. Although you may be experiencing pain in this world, one can live on the hope that in a parallel universe somewhere, another you is living life to the absolute fullest and feeling the opposite of pain. By painting a picture of the infinite realm of possibility, there’s hope even in the darkest of corners, and when the play moves towards its emotional endgame, there’s a small comfort left behind that this reality is just one of many, and in another life, things turn out different and better for everyone.

Constellations plays till 25 March at the KC Arts Centre. Tickets available from SISTIC

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