Theatre: 'Constellations' is an extremely intense love story with multiple jolts and plot twists


  • Arts
  • Thursday, 12 Sep 2019

'Constellations' director Abdul Qahar (left) standing alongside his two main actors Chen and Luk, who will play a couple on an emotional rollercoaster ride. Photo: The Star/Yap Chee Hong

Sometimes, the smallest decisions can have the largest effects. The most minor changes in our lives, whether we expect them or not, can cause huge ripples that alter your destiny forever.

Meet Roland and Marianne, the main characters of Constellations, by the British playwright Nick Payne.

Roland is a beekeeper, Marianne is a theoretical physicist, both meet at a party, hit it off, and have a drink. Or maybe, they don’t.

Maybe they go home together, or maybe they won’t. Maybe Marianne breaks Roland’s heart, or he breaks hers. In some versions, their love grows and blossoms, in others, it is tragically cut short.

Constellations, a play of love, heartbreak, hope and multiple universes, is playing at DPAC in Petaling Jaya now. It is put together by newly formed theatre company Rabbit Hole Productions.

“When I was doing my Masters (in acting) in Britain, two of my classmates put up a scene from this play, and I was intrigued. So I went to get the script, and fell in love with it. It combines two of my favourite things: the multiverse theory and performing on stage,” says producer Amelia Chen, who also plays Marianne.

Constellations, a two-hander play, premiered in London in 2012, and has since been performed all over the world, notably in 2015 on Broadway, with Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson playing the main roles.

The play’s Malaysian debut sees Abdul Qahar Aqilah in the director's seat, with Chen and Dominic Luk playing Marianne and Roland.

Abdul Qahar mentions that the whole idea that there’s more than one reality makes this take on a classic love story slightly “hopeful”.

“Especially in this age, when we’re upset, we can’t see the future, what happens now? But there could be a different reality where things actually do work out,” says Abdul Qahar.

The show’s set, which is designed by Yusman Mokthar, will also be minimalist in nature.

“It’s in the writing. The way Nick Payne talks about the work does encourage a more pared-down kind of presentation, which I love. It’s in the power of two actors on stage, and how we watch the story unfold through human interaction, and not say, through technology. It’s compelling human drama,” says Qahar.

In Constellations, the audience members, if they have come for plot twists, will appreciate the script’s different outcomes.

“Marianne is very intellectual, she’s a very independent woman. Her world revolves around her work a lot of the time. And as a physicist, she has a wide and broad understanding of the world and her place in it. She and Roland see the world very differently, and that affects their decisions,” says Chen.

“Roland is very practical, as a beekeeper should be. Things are always in order, things must have a purpose. Every bee has its own function and role in the hive, and I think that’s how he sees life as well,” explains Luk.

Since it is regarded as a “date night” show, the romantic aspect of the play is timeless.

“The story goes through all the main stages of two people’s relationship. They meet, they quarrel, they reconnect, these are all things that people have gone through at one point of their lives. And since this is explored in multiple realities, so we go through each stage multiple times. So you will be able to pick out one stage, one part, where you go: ‘I’ve been that person!’” says Chen.

The play runs for 75 minutes.


Constellations is showing Black Box, the Damansara Performing Arts Centre (DPAC), Empire Damansara, Jalan PJU 8/8, Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya in Selangor from Sept 12-15 and Sept 19-22. Showtime is 8.30pm. Sunday shows start 3pm. Tickets are RM68 (normal) and RM58 (concession). More info: dpac.com.my.


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