Playwave Creative

REVIEW: Constellations

Presented by Sydney Theatre Company
Reviewed by Eugene Kwag

Constellations at the Sydney Theatre Company (STC) provided a warm welcome to theatregoers on its closing night on 2nd September 2023. The show involved a stellar creative team - Ian Michael (Director), Isabel Hudson (Designer), Benjamin Brockman (Lighting Designer), James Brown (Composer & Sound Designer), Pratha Nagpal (Assistant Director), Nigel Poulton (Fight Director & Intimacy Coordinator), Jack Starkey-Gill (Associate Voice & Text Coach) with powerful performances by Johnny Carr and Catherine Văn-Davies.

The overarching theme of the story is that time is everything. Value and treasure it, you won’t get the chance to rehash it. Except in this circumstance where that truth is broken. The story revolves around two ordinarily extraordinary individuals. The story of a certain beekeeper, Roland and a quantum physicist, Marianne and their star-crossed paths as lovers, and their developing relationship encapsulated within the parallels of ‘what-if’ universes. It captures their joy, heartbreak, rage, beauty, youth, break-ups and make-ups. They both seek the disappearing connection of humanity where beauty develops and unfolds in the most unexpected ways.

This was my first STC theatre show, and it was a very pleasant experience. I had heard differing opinions about the show, but all of these were put to rest when I experienced the radiancy of the artists’ performances in real life. Johnny Carr (Roland) and Catherine Văn-Davies’ (Marianne) were both enlightening and terrifying at the same time. The pair danced through the story as one, maintaining a beautiful connection and chemistry. The spontaneous nature of the characters was heightened by the parallel universes that existed. There were many retakes of scenes, showing alternate pathways that allowed for the extenuating ‘what if’ circumstances. Each time, the actors brought a fresh perspective towards the given circumstance of the story allowing for growth and shifting the audience’s perspective.

The flashing lights that were used on the custom-made black marble stage contributed towards the otherworldly, science fiction nature of the show. The audience was transported into a fantastical land, even though the characters’ conflicts and lives were grounded in a familiar reality. The ceiling of the stage was intricately decorated with a hybrid of wild grass and clouds that added to the mysterious atmosphere of the whole play. The colours of the grass were constantly changing. For example, when things become serious and sombre, a blue colour would form, anger (red), yellow (happy), excited/joyous (orange). I give much applause James Brown (Composer & Sound Designer) who created subtle magic to match the tenderness and vibrant beauty that the performers carried.

At the end of the show, I met with Pratha Nagpal (Constellations Assistant Director and former Shopfront Arts Co-op Young Leader) and Zack Lewin (Playwave Creative alum). It was great to catch up with them and hear their journey and experiences as emerging artists. They shared valuable information and encouraged me to continue to carry on the torch and pass it down to the next generation. Why? Because theatre should be drawing more young people to its audience. So, I encourage you all to take advantage of opportunities on Playwave and beyond to enhance the engagement and visibility of Young People in our cultural venues.  

L-R: Pratha and Eugene, Pratha and Zack 

Production Images by Prudence Upton

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