Review: Constellations

★★★★☆

Constellations’ complex and compelling narrative transports the audience into the in-the-round of the O’Reilly – where everything and anything is a possibility. Spectacularly structured in its layering and character development, Sammy Glover’s intricate adaptation of this highly acclaimed experimental piece successfully encapsulates the Kundera-esque futility of love whilst simultaneously conserving the audience’s faith. Shanon Hayes’ and Calam Lynch’s performances illuminate what could have easily become a plotline of vacuum darkness, not losing but enchanting the audience in the multiplicity of Payne’s script. Propelled by the faultless design and lighting of Chris Burr, the complexity of acting and the simplicity of the set work in perfect unison to leave an extraordinary impression. The light, sound and design reflect the main dichotomies of the plot yet also serve to tie them together in the concept of the multiverse theory. This theory underpins the play, as different possibilities of each scene are played and replayed. Tying in the personality of both characters as well as the fluidity of time and place, the poignancy and effectiveness of the staging plays a key role in unlocking the meaning of the play. The technical artists of this production are players themselves in refining and elucidating this performance. Most transfixing of all, Hayes’ and Lynch’s constant dynamism is at the core of this piece’s construction. Their performance does not fail to move and inspire, to shock in moments of visceral revelation, to explore the plurality of human nature on several relatable levels. The movement of the actors was particularly effective, commanding the stage with the control and purpose, yet spontaneity, of two sub-atomic particles dancing in the cosmos. The actors incorporate intensity and variety in their depictions of stark humanity. Spanning several cosmic realities, delivered consecutively within minutes of each other, the audience receives a spectrum of emotion presented with depth to rouse the spectator. However, although the recurrence of the theatrical fragments was key to developing the powerful impact of ‘Constellations’, it ­­­was less forgiving of any glimmer of inconsistent acting. The repetition of the script may offer several thought-provoking alternatives to existence, but it also highlights moments where there is a variance in the quality of delivery. When performing a singular line three times, a particular delivery would be more successful than the others in capturing our attention and displaying nuanced expressions of subtle emotion. Unavoidably leading to the distant reminder that these were actors acting. This sometimes jarred the audience’s absorption in the drama of the play, throwing into sharp relief the definition between reality and fiction that was otherwise artistically erased for the most part of the performance. Yet, this criticism can hardly be identified to have largely drawn from the overall excellence of the night. On the contrary, the inconsistency attributed to the establishment of a single certainty amongst the many possible parallels of the multi-verse. Perhaps suggesting that there is only one instant in which the constellations align flawlessly, one perfect reality amongst infinite possibilities, as the divergence of delivery provokes the emotional attachment of the spectator to a specific depiction of events. Oxford’s own ‘Constellations’ completely delivers on all of its promises, being both accessible and profoundly moving. All of this is compounded by the fact that Jeremy Irons gave it a standing ovation, so you can’t really argue with that.