On the 19th October, I attended the opening night of Squabbling House Theatre’s debut production Constellations by Nick Payne. The play itself is an ambitious project for any new company. In the words of the show’s director, Thomas Leadbeater, Constellations is “a classic boy-meets-girl story” but it “prescribes to the idea of a multiverse”.
As Marianne drunkenly explains to Roland in the play: ‘in the quantum multiverse, every choice, every decision you’ve ever and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes’. In other words, the fundamental challenge of staging Constellations is ensuring that the production supports continuity, whilst encouraging contrast, between each universe or scene.
This is a task that I believe Squabbling House achieved with great success. Megan Bailey’s set design gave the actors an intimate playground to explore the full emotional range that the script demands. The three platforms, flanked by floating hexagonal structures, framed the actors well, whilst presenting clear definitions of the space within scenes. To complement this, Bailey’s stunning lighting, along with Amy Noriko Ward’s clever sound design, presented subtle suggestions of location that never felt overbearing or out of place.
Nonetheless, it is undeniable that the main challenge of staging Constellations falls to the two actors at its centre. On this score, I am happy to say that Harriet Patten-Chatfield and John Chisham carried the action with impressive energy. Each actor managed to create subtle emotional arcs, not only over the course of the play, but also within scenes and, occasionally, sentences. The play was an emotional rollercoaster, I found myself laughing one moment, and brought to tears the next. In fact, on all levels, I was impressed by Squabbling House’s premier production. Ambitious, energetic and gloriously entertaining, Constellations is a promising start for this young company. I very much look forward to seeing it again when they tour, later on, this year. Five Stars!