Carla van der Sluijs, our very own Theatre Editor, reviews Constellations directed by Al Gillespie.
The tenuous relationship between science and the arts has been debated for decades. And yet, Constellations merged the two seamlessly on one stage. This emotional play follows the relationship between Roland and Marianne through a multitude of parallel universes. It was complex and confusing, but this only made its heart-breaking ending more intense. At times, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.
It is only very rarely that theatre creates an atmosphere before the action has even started, and yet director Al Gillespie managed to achieve this. The two actors sat still on stage in a dim blue lighting haze with gentle music, causing us audience members to speak in whispers as if the play had already started! The decision to stage Constellations in the round paid off, and I could not imagine it being done any other way. This staging meant the actors could work around the infinite possibilities of the stage space in the same way that the concept of parallel universes explores infinite possibilities in general. My one criticism of the production would be that at times it felt a little too much like a theatrical exercise. Each scene took place in a different part of the stage and sometimes the actors’ transitions between the scenes felt a little robotic.
The two performers were both exceptional in their roles. Kate Kitchens has an incredibly expressive face and she was like an animated character on stage. Jared Liebmiller was also heart-warming to watch as Roland. Their relationship was incredibly believable and in spite of the wide variety of personas they played between them, Kate and Jared maintained a striking naturality.
Constellations was experimental theatre at its finest. It never felt boastful or pretentious, and instead worked with quiet intelligence to move its audience. Although it was incredibly funny, the humour was not loud or attention-seeking, but instead was delivered with gentle humility. Gillespie has taken on an incredibly ambitious project and showcased his attention to detail in explaining the complex. It took a while to join to dots, but once connected the final picture was stunning.
Carla van der Sluijs