Constellations: Play with universal appeal comes to Newcastle

SPACE CONCEPTS: Tim O’Donnell and Emily Daly explores the impact of decisions that unfold in different ways in Constellations. Picture: Jay Wood
SPACE CONCEPTS: Tim O’Donnell and Emily Daly explores the impact of decisions that unfold in different ways in Constellations. Picture: Jay Wood

THERE are times in our lives when we wish we had made other decisions or spoken to people in different ways.

So it’s not surprising that English writer Nick Payne’s play Constellations, which shows its two characters doing that, has been a hit with audiences worldwide since it premiered in 2012.

The pair have very different backgrounds. Roland is a bee keeper and Marianne is a cosmologist, a scientist who studies the universe. They meet at a barbecue and are attracted to each other. Or are they? The play shows their initial reactions and various ways they could react at other times in their lives. A marriage proposal, for example, unfolds in five different ways.

The title, Constellations, is a reference to the various choices we face. Marianne notes that space has multiple universes, with each having a different nature.     

Constellations will be staged at Newcastle Theatre Company’s venue in Lambton by director John Wood’s company, Seated Ovation, in association with NTC.

The show will have four performances between September 13 and 15. The actors are Emily Daly and Tim O’Donnell, with Wood joined in the direction by Kate Slowey.

While the play is generally presented with recorded music at various points, this production will have Newcastle pianist Sebastian Winter playing music he has composed for the show.

O’Donnell sees the relationship of the two people as very real, and Daly notes that as the actors make the journey of the relationship, up to six different snapshots of incidents in their lives are seen. She said that Marianne’s comments about things happening in the universes led her to research the space concepts mentioned in the play.

Payne was 28 when Constellations premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre, a venue used for try-outs of new English plays.

The show’s success, winning rave reviews and standing ovations by audiences, led to it being transferred to a larger West End theatre.

There were similar reactions when it was staged in New York, with several critics acclaiming it for packing more into 70 minutes than many three-hour works contained. The New York Times reviewer referred to it as showing that higher physics could be sexy, accessible and emotionally devastating.

Likewise, it has been acclaimed during Australian state capital seasons, with critics praising it for being witty, fascinating and heartbreaking.

Constellations has performances at the NTC Theatre nightly at 8pm from Thursday, September 13 to Saturday, September 15, plus a 2pm Saturday matinee.

Tickets: $20. Bookings: 4952 4958; au.patronbase.com/_NewcastleTheatreCompany.