The phrase “best young playwright” is thrown around almost carelessly nowadays; however, Nick Payne arguably seizes the title with no intentions of letting go through his 2012 play Constellations. After an initial opening at the Royal Court, before transferring both to the West End and Broadway, Payne’s masterpiece embarked on its first ever UK tour, which I was lucky enough to witness at the Cambridge Arts Theatre.
Tom Scutt’s designs were simplistic but effective. The ever-present pulsing of the chromospheres resonated with Payne’s depiction of the existence of multiverses, alongside the intelligent compositions of Simon Slater and David McSeveney’s sound design. Michael Longhurst’s direction was succinct and sublime, and his collaboration with Lucy Cullingford’s, who focused on movement, ensured that each parallel scene was distinct enough to create a complete different emotional response from the audience, yet demonstrate the essence of Payne’s play.
Joe Armstrong, who has appeared in Flare Path in the West End and The Bill, gave a solid performance as Roland possessing perfect comic timing and demonstrating a strong juxtaposition from scene to scene. His obvious on stage chemistry with Doctor Who’s Louise Brealey shone throughout. Brealey’s physicality was strong and energetic throughout, and her variety of character was superb. Often in plays which use only a cast of two it can seem bare on such a vast stage as in Constellations, but Armstrong and Brealey raced through the 80 minute script.
Constellations was a hit when it was released, and this reincarnation is no different. The original artistic team were reunited, and the success of Constellations is evident through their jobs between the two stints. Longhurst directed the extraordinary ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore at the Sam Wannamaker Playhouse and Carmen Disruption at the Almeida, whilst Tom Scutt was responsible for design for King Charles III which transferred from the Almeida to the Wyndham’s after a successful run there. For what is really a simplistic production, it is remarkable how well the creatives have brought to life Payne’s superb script.