Reverence My Sanctuary is inscribed in the proscenium arch of the stage. It is not purpose built as the play’s set but a remnant of the old Baptist Tabernacle Church that now hosts the Eternity Playhouse, an apt space to perform CONSTELLATIONS, Nick Payne’s play about multiple possible universes.
Director Anthony Skuse, captivated by the building’s interior structure, “notions of time, mortality and faith are inscribed in the building’s markings and scars”, with his production designer Gez Xavier Mansfield, has brilliantly placed the action of the piece in a sort of palimpsest, utilising extant structure- the dome curvature of the back wall suggests a celestial observatory – and inscriptions while introducing an oblique plinth and a couple of chairs placed askew to cue the off kilter, non-linear form of the play.
With string theory at its core, CONSTELLATIONS plays out as a sort of palimpsest itself, where original beginnings can have numerous and manifold outcomes.
Roland, a bee keeper, and Marianne, a theoretical physicist, meet at a barbecue. In quantum shifts they have the same meeting over and over, a kind of Groundhog Day, although the play doesn’t get grounded in one day.
There is a progression, a multiplatform evolution of their relationship from flirting, wooing, marriage, mortality – life, love and the whole damn thing .The taste of honey accompanied by bee stings.
This production of CONSTELLATIONS boasts a couple of stellar performances from Sam O’Sullivan and Emma Palmer as the antithesis of the star crossed lovers. In a firmament of the philosophical and physical, they are in fine fettle as the characters who orbit each other with an astronomical chemistry and a palpable emotional gravitational pull.
Palmer’s trajectory from focused physicist to fearful aphasia sufferer with all its associated frustrations is powerfully portrayed.
As the affable apiarist, O’Sullivan is as sunny as honey, sweetly fallible, the epitome of devoted worker companion to his queen bee.
Both pollinate the play with poise and poignancy.
To quote Cassius: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves,” We may indeed occupy the same, precise place in the space time continuum forever, but our choices within that place are ours, to flourish, fail, forge, forfeit, forgive and be forgiven, and fight against the stings and harrows that are not of our making.
The concepts of predestination and free will are not mutually exclusive, each vibrating, oscillating and dancing to give each quark its quirk, every matter its mind.
It’s the constellations of choice that make life such a galaxy quest.
CONSTELLATIONS is playing the Eternity Playhouse until September 7.