Tag Archives: Vaudeville Theatre

Constellations

★★★★

Vaudeville Theatre

ConstellationsConstellations

Vaudeville Theatre

Reviewed – 12th August 2021

★★★★

 

“The chemistry between Douglas and Tovey is cosmic, even celestial, and there is a frisson that is totally fresh and natural”

 

‘In the quantum multiverse’, explains Manuel in “Constellations”, ‘every choice, every decision you’ve ever and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes. We’ve all had these late-night conversations at some point or other, that usually descend into a chasm of confusion and a mind-boggling realisation about how little we know about the universe. Nick Payne’s play about the randomness of time and space condenses the subject more succinctly when it takes us on Manuel and Roland’s journey through a variety of alternative and possible pasts, presents and futures. But cosmology aside, the focus is on the microcosmic ‘humanness’ of the couple. The heartaches and happiness brought about by the various ‘what ifs’ that flesh is heir to.

After over a year of uncertainty, could-have-beens and might-have-beens; it feels like the perfect time for a revival of Payne’s extraordinary tale of infinite possibilities. First produced at the Royal Court it has since enjoyed West End runs, national tours and played Broadway. Now back in the West End, with original director Michael Longhurst at the helm, it can be seen from a fresh angle. The production features a revolving cast, and the choice of actors opens up new meanings and new dynamics to Payne’s writing. The action is no longer the preserve of a white, middle aged heterosexual couple. In this version in question, Manuel (originally Marianne) is played by Omari Douglas opposite Russell Tovey’s Roland. It is not just a boy-meets-girl story anymore. And the current concept works brilliantly. The chemistry between Douglas and Tovey is cosmic, even celestial, and there is a frisson that is totally fresh and natural. Having not seen the other scenarios I am not offering a comparison, but I suspect any choice (in our quantum universe every choice is possible) as to which duo to see will be the right one.

Roland is a beekeeper and Manuel a cosmologist who waxes lyrical about string theory and the belief that there are multiple universes that pull people’s lives in various directions. This is reflected in the play’s structure as the scenes (often very brief) are repeated with different attitudes, intonations, and outcomes. The couple meet at a barbecue and become romantically involved, they move in with each other, break up, meet up again and eventually marry. Or not. The differences played out in each variation are often quite miniscule, but the effects are momentous. All of life and death is there, with multiple stages of laughter and grief. On paper it does have the potential to become a drama exercise, but the actors’ outstanding performance prevents this.

Tom Scutt’s design suspends dozens of helium filled balloons above the stage, their significance morphing in tune with the nuances of each scene. A simple design, but in the mind of the audience it can represent molecules or galaxies, party guests or speech bubbles, or even an invisible tumour. Alongside David McSeveney’s staccato sound design and Simon Slater’s score, we get a full sense of how snap decisions can change the rhythms of life, love, and loss immeasurably.

‘We have all the time we’ve always had’ declares Manuel. More than once. As each scene is replayed, we pick up a better understanding of what is being said. And each time it pierces with a different force. When we know that maybe they haven’t the time, it is heart-breaking. At other times it fills us with joy and at times it is just funny. It feels like the perfect time for a revival of Payne’s extraordinary tale of infinite possibilities. But then again, any time is right – it is indeed timeless.

Whether or not you accept or reject the multiverse theory or believe in the notion of free choice, “Constellations” is the obvious choice of theatre to see right now. And if it is within your timeframe (or budget) to choose which cast to watch, I’d certainly try for as many of the four versions as possible.

 

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Marc Brenner

 


Constellations

Vaudeville Theatre until 12th September

 

Previously reviewed this year by Jonathan:
Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Hung Parliament | ★★★★ | Online | February 2021
Bklyn The Musical | ★★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Remembering the Oscars | ★★★ | Online | March 2021
The Picture of Dorian Gray | ★★★★ | Online | March 2021
Disenchanted | ★★★ | Online | April 2021
Abba Mania | ★★★★ | Shaftesbury Theatre | May 2021
Cruise | ★★★★★ | Duchess Theatre | May 2021
Preludes in Concert | ★★★★★ | Online | May 2021
You Are Here | ★★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | May 2021
Amélie The Musical | ★★★★ | Criterion Theatre | June 2021
Bad Days And Odd Nights | ★★★★★ | Greenwich Theatre | June 2021
Express G&S | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | June 2021
Forever Plaid | ★★★★ | Upstairs at the Gatehouse | June 2021
Forgetful Heart | ★★★★ | Online | June 2021
Staircase | ★★★ | Southwark Playhouse | June 2021
The Hooley | ★★★★★ | Chiswick House & Gardens | June 2021
Be More Chill | ★★★★ | Shaftesbury Theatre | July 2021
Heathers | ★★★ | Theatre Royal Haymarket | July 2021
The Two Character Play | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | July 2021
My Night With Reg | ★★★★ | The Turbine Theatre | July 2021
Big Big Sky | ★★★★ | Hampstead Theatre | August 2021
The Windsors: Endgame | ★★★ | Prince of Wales Theatre | August 2021
The Rice Krispie Killer | ★★★★★ | Lion and Unicorn Theatre | August 2021

 

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The Worst Witch

★★★★

Vaudeville Theatre

The Worst Witch

The Worst Witch

Vaudeville Theatre

Reviewed – 28th July 2019

★★★★

 

“The energy of the performance carries the story along, sweeping the audience up in a tide of laughter”

 

This review is a joint effort by me and nine year old Manu, a big fan of the Worst Witch books and TV series. We both enjoyed it a lot.

The book was adapted for the stage by Emma Reeves, who also devised the TV series. She has a real understanding of Jill Murphy’s books, and has done a great job of bringing the world of Mildred Hubble and her friends to the stage. Manu says it was as good as the TV episodes, but different. Theresa Heskins, the director, was faced with a host of challenges including disappearing people, broomstick flying, cats, and a Shenanigans spell. Luckily she had a magic advisor, John Bulleid, an esteemed member of the magic circle, who clearly knows a thing or two about how to make the impossible happen. We were still trying to figure out how they got Enid into the suitcase, as we walked to the tube station after the show.

Danielle Bird is a wonderfully endearing and hopeless Mildred, Out of her depth but brave enough to stand up to bullies big and small and to fight for her friends. Manu’s favourite characters from among the children were Ethel and Enid, played by Rosie Abraham and Consuela Rolle. He said Ethel was really good at being mean and just full of herself and Enid was crazy funny. I agree with him, Abrahams kept Ethel at just the right pitch of vile, making her change of heart quite poignant, and Rolle’s Enid is a real force of nature. Mildred and her best friend Maud, played by Rebecca Killick did an impressive piece of comedy aerial work on their broomsticks and developed their friendship through adversity very nicely.

Manu’s favourite adult in the show was the hugely impressive Polly Lister, who played both Miss Cackle and Agatha, her evil twin. Before the show started we read the programme, and wondered how she would manage to do both. Manu tried to figure out how she would be able to manage if she had a scene that both characters were in. Well, we discovered that she managed very well indeed, giving an absolute tour de force performance in the second act, belting out songs, killing a sock and generally becoming hilariously unhinged. It was Manu’s ‘best bit,’and mine too.

Manu’s final comment is that he would tell his friends to go and see it, because it’s really good and they would like it.

Simon Daw’s simple, quirky design nicely evokes the feeling of a school for witches, and the sound and lighting, by Leigh Davis and Aideen Malone conjure magic when needed, and the right atmosphere all the time. There are some cracking songs too, composed by Luke Potter. I’m humming one as I write this. The music is performed by four versatile cast members, two of them playing multiple instruments.

The Worst Witch is a fabulous fun show for kids and adults. The energy of the performance carries the story along, sweeping the audience up in a tide of laughter, drama and a real empathy for girls like Mildred. It’s a show with a big heart and a large helping of joy.

 

Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Manuel Harlan

 


The Worst Witch

Vaudeville Theatre until 8th September

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Lady Windermere’s Fan | ★★★★ | January 2018
Them/Us | ★★★ | June 2019
Three Sisters | ★★★★ | June 2019

 

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