The story follows quantum physicist Marianne and beekeeper Roland who meet at a barbecue. As scenes repeat themselves with different outcomes, the audience is offered a glimpse of the many futures this initial interaction could spark.
The story first ruptured at the Royal Court theatre in 2012 in a celebrated production starring Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins, which propelled then 29-year-old Payne to theatrical stardom. In 2015, it exploded onto Broadway, with Jake Gyllenhaal making his Broadway debut opposite Ruth Wilson, who received a Tony nomination for her performance. Constellations returned to London later that year – now with a big and overwhelmingly positive reputation behind it – where it played at the West End’s Trafalgar Studios, starring Louise Brealey (Sherlock) and Joe Armstrong (Robin Hood, The Hollow Crown).
Having impressed the majority of critics and the public alike, leaving a trail of shiny reviews in its wake, it's no wonder this revival has been one of the most hyped-up openings on the West End this year. But this time, things are being done differently; as is fitting for a play centered around the fact that the interactions of any given moment could lead to infinite possibilities, not one but four exciting casts are bringing the story to life throughout the run, each couple lending the story different nuance and meaning. And while previous productions have only portrayed the duo as white heterosexuals in their thirties, this revival also diversifies the couple's relationship in terms of age, race and sexual orientation.
The longest run, from 18 June – 1 August, sees Shelia Atim (Les Blancs, Twelfth Night) and Ivanno Jeremiah (Humans) step into the shoes of Marianne and Roland. Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who) and Zoë Wannamaker (Harry Potter, My Family) will explore a mature take on the story from 23 June - 24 July. Then Omari Douglas (It’s a Sin) and Russell Tovey (Being Human, Years & Years) will embody the story as a same-sex couple from 30 July – 11 September, before Anna Maxwell Martin (Line of Duty) and Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids) complete the run from 6 August – 12 September.
Reviewing the production as a whole would be impossible without seeing all four duos slip into the skins of Marianne and Roland, infusing their interactions with altered shades of intent, desire and intimacy. But, if your pre-determined path leads to you, like us, to seeing Capaldi and Wannamaker deliver the first mature take on the story, you'll witness the two giants of stage and screen fleck the story with an aged wisdom. Theirs is a relationship that starts off giddy and a little awkward; both parties surprised at finding one another at this late hour.
The pair play their early scenes – including the revelation of Marianne's liaisons with a 24-year-old – to gleeful laughs from the audience. But it's a relationship that makes increasing sense as the story unfolds, with the final moments of the play holding new depth when portrayed by a couple in later life.
|What||Constellations, Vaudeville Theatre review|
|Where||Vaudeville Theatre, 404 Strand, London, WC2R 0NH | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
18 Jun 21 – 12 Sep 21, Performances times vary, run time 70 mins
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|