Review: Nick Payne’s Constellations – The Infinite Possibilities of Love
Photo: Constellations présentée au Trident du 6 mars au 2 avril. Crédit Stéphane Bourgeois.
By Aurélie Roy
Constellations was written by English playwright Nick Payne in 2012. It has been played all around the world and has won several prizes that recognize the quality and the originality of its script. Translated from English by David Laurin and directed by Jean-Phillipe Joubert, Constellations is on at the Théâtre du Trident from March 7 to April 2, 2017.
Payne’s Constellations is the love story of two characters, Marianne and Philippe, who meet at a friend’s barbecue and fall in love. Actually, the story is rather about two strangers, Marianne and Philippe, who meet at a barbecue but never see each other again. Or maybe Marianne and Philippe meet at a barbecue, start dating, and then break up and never see each other again.
Or perhaps Marianne and Philippe do break up, but run into each other years later at a dance class, where Marianne admits that she is engaged. Or maybe Philippe is the one who is engaged. Or perhaps Marianne and Philippe are both single and decide to get a drink after dance class, after which old flames are rekindled and everyone lives happily ever after. Or…
Constellations explores several different outcomes of the meeting between Marianne and Philippe. From the very moment they meet, their lives could go in different directions. The beauty of the play is that it does not impose one single version of a love story. Instead, it explicitly shows the different possible outcomes of the characters’ initial chance encounter.
This premise challenges the audience to let go of their most basic need to know the precise conclusion to a narrative. Constellations ambitiously dares us to rethink the traditional belief that a story needs a beginning, a middle and an end. Marianne and Philippe’s story has a real beginning, but the different possible middles that the play proposes imply that there is no real end.
By exploring the different scenarios that may or may not occur in the characters’ lives, Constellations emphasizes the impact of every single decision on the course of our lives. Everything we choose to say or do affects the very nature of our future.
Playing the same scenes but in several different ways requires an incredible amount of talent from the actors, and Valérie Laroche and Christian Michaud absolutely pull it off. Laroche and Michaud display a wide range of emotions and attitudes, and managed to make every scenario as believable as the next.
The set is minimalist and yet highly effective. The actors stand on a large round platform. Through precise stage lighting, the actors’ shadows on the round floor rotate in a way that is reminiscent of the movements of the hands of a clock and that evokes the effects of the passage of time. This technique is often used to take the story from one moment in time to another.
Funny, heartbreaking, and deliciously bewildering, Constellations is sure to leave its audience speechless and haunted by all the questions it raises. The play takes you on an original journey through the infinite possibilities that life offers.
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