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Constellations, love and possibility combined

Heather Wallace

Two people. One love. Countless universes.

Have you ever had the feeling that you should have turned left rather than right? Do you ever wonder if every decision opens a thousand alternate universes where you did something just a little bit different? What if every choice you’ve ever made and never made, happens somewhere in the universe?

Dwelling too much on that thought could stop you getting out of bed in the morning, but it’s one that British playwright Nick Payne explores in Constellations.

Marianne and Roland meet at an ordinary afternoon barbeque. She’s a quantum physicist and he’s a bee-keeper. Their meeting begins a love story that unfolds in different ways in different futures: in some, never getting past hello; and in others, developing into a passionate affair. It’s a chance to explore the ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ that can nag deep at the soul.

West End and Broadway versions have been well received since the play first premiered in 2012, and now The Street Theatre is bringing it to Canberra from 15-29 July with Lexi Sekuless as Marianne and Kristian Jenkins as Roland.

Lexi takes me through the twists and turns of the play, explaining how she’s been preparing for the role. When I ask if Marianne’s personality changes in each universe, Lexi says she thinks character is revealed in how we do things, rather than by circumstances. “It’s always the same Marianne, she’s not a different character because she makes different choices,” Lexi explains.

“It’s intentionally confusing to begin with and we do play with time. Theatre is the place for abstract and the audiences are part of those moments, embracing the challenge. There are beautiful themes that anyone can connect to and they are louder because of the abstract nature of the play.”


Lexi Sekuless in Constellations

Love, loss, cheating, heartbreak, illness, and reunion are all explored in under an hour and a half by the two actors on stage.

“All solid acting is moment-to-moment, we can’t race ahead,” says Lexi. “It’s a great exercise in forcing you to stick to that moment. Nick Payne has used such wonderful language with patterns that are such a pleasure to perform.”

“I think it’s so telling that the characters themselves never say ‘I wish I had…’. Marianne and Roland don’t judge their past selves, that’s for the audience to think about whether there was a right or wrong in any of the events.”

Multiverse theory is a subject that encourages reflection and I ask Lexi if she thinks there are other versions of herself. She gives the question careful consideration before saying, “I can see past and future Lexis, but not different present Lexis. I do believe, though, that chance and the universe control our lives.”

For Lexi herself, there have been many chances and changes that brought her to Constellations. The last few years have seen her return to Australia after studying at London’s Central School of Speech and Drama and performing as Lady Anne in Richard III at The Globe. Here in Canberra, she has put on a cabaret show about the life of Marilyn Monroe at ANU’s Teatro Vivaldi, something she is planning to repeat later this year.

“I’ve always wanted to work with Caroline Stacey, and having her at The Street Theatre is such a great opportunity,” Lexi says. “I auditioned for a part in Cold Light, and even though I didn’t get that, Caroline approached me almost immediately about Constellations.”

Being in Canberra has offered a good opportunity to tap into expert knowledge as well. “I was never good at science but I spent a bit of time with an ANU cosmologist to understand Marianne’s work in string theory. The coolest thing about acting is becoming a mini expert in different topics.”

Nick Payne wrote Constellations at 26 and in The Street’s version there is some great new talent behind the scenes. Owen Horton (lighting) and Kyle Sheedy (sound) bring their creativity and ingenuity to the stage in their first professional engagement, working with The Street’s set and costume designer Imogen Keen. They flag when the characters are slipping between their many selves, light and sound changes opening each new universe.

As for me, I cling to the thought that somewhere in the multiverse there’s a Heather whose text message made it through to her friend Bob that sunny day in 2011 when he was having a drink with Michael Fassbender at the San Sebastian Film Festival, and he answered it in time for her to join them. Ah yes, if only…

the essentials

What: Constellations by Nick Payne
Where: The Street Theatre, 15 Childers St, Canberra City West
When: Saturday 15 July – Saturday 29 July
Duration: 80 minutes
Tickets $35 – $45
Bookings: (02) 6247 1223 or www.thestreet.org.au

This is a sponsored editorial. For more information on sponsored editorials, click here

Feature image: H Creations


Heather Wallace

Heather’s career in arts and heritage PR spans 15 years, with highlights including working for Sean Connery at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and promoting Australia’s World Heritage places. Her blog, Myths and Misadventures, (http://mythsandmisadventures.blogspot.com.au/), is about life lessons we can learn from the Romans. You can follow her on Twitter @Missmythology. More about the Author

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