Review: Constellations, Missing Persons (VIC)

A close examination of love and quantum mechanics that will have you pondering the delicate nature of human relationships.
Review: Constellations, Missing Persons (VIC)

Andrew Strano and Abigail King in rehearsal. Photo credit Felicia Smith.

When beekeeper Roland (Andrew Strano) and physicist Marianne (Abigail King) meet at a party we witness the beginning of a relationship that, through many twists and turns, explores the themes of love, relationships, and quantum mechanics.

From their first encounter, we realise the pair possess an inquisitiveness and curiosity for each other that surpasses pragmatism. While shared interests are usually imperative in forming the foundations for a new relationship, it doesn’t stop this couple from falling in love.  

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Waxing lyrical about her work as a theoretical physicist, Maryanne tells Roland at the barbeque: ‘In the quantum multiverse, every decision you’ve ever and never made exists in an unimaginable vast ensemble of parallel universes’. Thereafter we see the infinite possibilities that could occur in their relationship repeated over multiples scenes in a kind of Groundhog Day: from their first romantic encounter and the establishment of their relationship to an admission of infidelity, a breakup, a rekindling of romance, a marriage proposal, and an illness.

While replaying scenes could quickly become tedious for the audience, the nuanced ways in which King and Strano approach the repetitive dialogue builds excitement within the narrative in a way which doesn’t become tired, with momentum maintained in part thanks to Melbourne-born, London-based director Casey Gould, a Green Room Award winner.

Both actors’ portrayal of characters who are painfully awkward, and a little nerdy, is consistent and believable, with Nick Payne’s writing beautifully exposing the vulnerabilities, joy and pain that come with the gamut of emotions experienced in a romantic relationship. King brings a lot of energy to Abigail, an anxious, intelligent, career-focused individual, while Strano’s Roland is a gentle, considerate, slightly nervous yet easygoing character.

At times, the chemistry between the characters was unconvincing, with Strano’s energy a little flat in comparison to King’s in the more intense emotional scenes. While the awkwardness of his character worked well in the initial stages of their relationship, it’s questionable whether that same awkwardness would be present during pivotal points which occur after their relationship has become more established.

The multidisciplinary arts space Missing Persons (in the Nicholas Building) provided an intimate environment which worked well in keeping the focus entirely on the actors and the many paths which their relationship takes throughout this 70 minute piece ­– you definitely need to concentrate given all the variations.

Set design was minimal, except for fairy lights which were strung up throughout the space and switched on and off to signal the change in a scene. The lighting was further complemented by a live cello performance from Lucy O’Brien, who created a minimalist yet rich soundscape to evoke the layers of emotions within the piece

A close examination of love, friendship, life and mortality, Gould’s production of Constellations will have you pondering the delicate nature of human relationships, the countless choices we are forced to make in life, and what our lives would be like if we made alternative decisions.

3.5 stars out of 5 ★★★☆

Constellations
by Nick Payne
Directed by Casey Gould
Marianne – Abigail King
Roland – Andrew Strano
Cello – Lucy O’Brien
18-21 July 2019
Missing Persons, Nicholas Building, Melbourne VIC
Tickets $28-$32

About the author

Sabine Brix is a writer, editor, podcaster and electronic musician with a specific interest in personal storytelling that captures the essence of why people create. She was the former Online Content Producer at Archer Magazine and editor of the LGBTI website: Gay News Network.

She has produced sound art for BBC's Radio4  and composed music for the web series Starting From Now, which screened on SBS.

Follow Sabine on Twitter @sabinebrix