Review Round-up: Constellations, The Vaudeville Theatre


The Vaudeville Theatre .

Press night: 12 August. 

A quantum physicist and a beekeeper meet at a barbeque. They hit it off, or perhaps they don’t. They go home together, or maybe they go their separate ways. In the multiverse, with every possible future ahead of them, a love of honey could make all the difference.
This summer Nick Payne‘s romance Constellations has been playing with four different casts taking turns to play out the story, with Donmar Warehouse Artistic Director Michael Longhurst returning to direct his West End and Broadway hit.
The first two pairs of couples were Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah (18 June – 1 August) and Peter Capaldi and Zoë Wanamaker (23 June – 24 July) who were met with glowing reviews.
Next up is Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey (30 July – 11 September), and Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd (6 August – 12 September). Did the critics enjoy it?
Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd. Photo: Marc Brenner

Critic Reviews:

 The Telegraph  

A major part of the pull of seeing two stagings of Constellations on the same day is the difference between each cast – in that respect, the play also subtextually dramatises the infinity of choices that govern how a play is realised on stage. Douglas and Tovey’s kinetic performances have the edge here. They share a naturally playful, even-handed chemistry that breezes adroitly through razor-sharp comic timing and the abrupt changes of scene that dramatise Payne’s stage direction in the script “an indented rule indicates a change in universe”. Tovey’s rap-inflected romantic monologue about the sex life of bees is truly something special to experience.

In contrast, Maxwell Martin and O’Dowd, who are seasoned, big-name actors, initially seemed oddly stiff and static – perhaps more a case of first-night jitters than any lack of preparedness. Once they got into their stride, however, their portrayals of a brusquely fiery Marianne and awkwardly protective Roland made their rendition the sweetest yet.


Payne’s spare but punishingly essential writing is so truthful, complex and malleable that each moment feels like a cliffhanger even when this is the umpteenth time you’re hearing an exchange of dialogue, or you’ve seen a couple of versions of this exact same scene. One of the great joys of rewatching Longhurst’s playful, ingenious staging is noting the ways all four versions differ from each other, in tone, blocking and emphasis.

Apart from Payne’s words, the other constants are the technical elements, all flawless: Tom Scutt’s award-winning abstract set of hanging, sometimes tumbling, spheres resembling planets, party balloons, human brain cells, Lee Curran’s vivid, expressive lighting, and David McSeveney’s haunting soundscape. This is a production where everybody is at the top of their game.