05/08/2020 - 08/08/2020
Stars align for Constellations at The Meteor
The stars have aligned (literally) for local theatre company BlackBox Creative as star of the hit NZ television show Westside Jordan Mooney returns home to Hamilton to star in the award-winning play, Constellations by Nick Payne this August.
Usually based in Auckland, where he is currently filming season 6 of Westside, Mooney has joined forces with local performer Natalie Swart and BlackBox Creative, to bring this hit show to the Waikato. Constellations, which won the Evening Standard Best Play Award and was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best New Play, opens at the Meteor in Hamilton on 5th August and runs until August 8th.
“I can’t wait to work on stage in the Waikato again” says Mooney, “it’s such a joy filled experience putting my sweat, blood and tears into the theatres where I grew up. I’ve always admired the work that Blackbox Creative have done; there’s always been a degree of ambition and fearlessness that I love to watch. It’s going to be a pleasure to be on the other side.”
“I jumped at the chance to be a part of this play” adds co-star Natalie Swart. “This is theatre, stripped bare, and these sorts of roles don’t come along too often. I’m really amped to share Constellations with Hamilton”.
Nick Payne’s Constellations is a two-hander play with Mooney and Swart being the sole cast members. In short, the play is about free will, friendship, quantum multiverse theory, love and honey… A spellbinding and romantic journey that begins with the simple encounter between a man and a woman, Constellations delves into infinite possibilities raising questions about the difference between choice and destiny. It’s an uncomfortable, yet delicious, hilarious and heart-warming piece that’s set to leave audiences spellbound. “Constellations gets into your head and under your skin”- The New York Time“s.
“I’ve always wanted to direct Constellations, but I never thought it would be quite like this!” says Director and co-founder Melisa Martin. “It’s been such an interesting process to develop the first stages of the play online, without meeting in person, but it meant we analysed the text a lot deeper than we typically would have; that’s reflected in the incredible performances Jordan and Natalie are delivering now.”
The production faced the expected logistical problems that came with the global pandemic. “Initially, it was challenging” says Jacinta Parsons, Producer and BlackBox’s co-founder “but it ultimately worked really well; we held auditions, callbacks and the first 5 rehearsals on Zoom; it was quite surreal. There was a lot of uncertainty during lockdown, but we wanted to be ready in case the show went on. And it looks like we have the green light! It’s truly amazing to see now what creativity has been produced during lockdown in our local arts scene; it’s more alive than ever.”
Constellations is BlackBox Creative’s 5th show since the company was conceived in 2014 with the aim of bringing dynamic and high calibre theatre to the Waikato and making performance art accessible to all. Their first production, The Last Letter, was an original show by Mel Martin, Director and BlackBox Creative’s co-founder, and shows since then have varied from Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet) to Broadway musicals (Spring Awakening).
Constellations is showing at The Meteor every evening from
5th to 8th August 2020
with an additional early evening performance on 7th and a matinee on 8th.
$15 (matinee), $20 (concessions) and $25 (general admission)
Book & further information at
Roland played by Jordan Mooney
Marianne played by Natalie Swart
Written by Nick Payne
Directed by Mel Martin
Produced and Assistant Directed by Jacinta Parsons
Assistant Produced by Kate Booker
Set Design by Ben Wilson
Lighting Design by Aaron Chesham
Sound Design by Malcolm Ward
Costume Design by Maria Eaton
Stage Managed by Toni Garcon
Photography by Peter Kirby
A kaleidoscope of vignettes
Review by Ross MacLeod 06th Aug 2020
Most of us have looked back at points in our life and wondered ‘What if?’
Constellations takes this idea and runs it through a prism, showing us moments in a relationship split into possibilities. It sets the idea up swiftly with a neat light and sound cue to let us know when we’re seeing an alternate possibility. Marianne (Natalie Swart) is breaking the ice with Roland (Jordan Mooney) at a barbecue. Initially it falls flat, but as we slip between possibilities they grow closer. It’s a clever way to draw a narrative, one in which even though the characters themselves have no continuity, we as the audience observe a progression.
There are some well placed mentions of multiverse science here and there (Marianne is a cosmologist) but it’s mostly a show about the ‘What ifs’ and the value to be had in either our uniqueness or our place in infinity.
As a two-header based entirely around interaction, the productions hangs on the script and the ability of the actors to perform it, and Constellations has both of these locked in. Swart and Mooney bounce of each other with a lovable chemistry and tenderness. [More]
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Dynamic what-ifs limited by unrelenting pacing
Review by D.A. Taylor 06th Aug 2020
Constellations is a play about what-ifs. About a third of way through, Marianne (Natalie Swart) explains to Roland (Jordan Mooney) the mechanism that undergirds the play: the by-product of our contemporary understanding of the universe – concepts like general relativity, quantum theory and super/string theory – is that a multiverse exists in which all possibilities play out.
Premiering in 2012, with the equally magnificent Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins as Roland the beekeeper and Marianne the cosmologist respectively, Constellations has gone from strength to strength, selling out shows from the West End to Peru [including The Court in Christchurch and Circa in Wellington – ed] . In the show’s programme, director Mel Martin notes that it was the Jake Gyllenhaal / Ruth Wilson combination on Broadway in 2015 that won her over to the charms of Nick Payne’s endearing script about infinity.
The play opens like many others: woman meets man. Then woman meets man again. Then again. The same scene – the same introduction, or slightly different – played out throughout countless superimposed what-ifs. Woman and man get together – or they don’t. They fight – or they don’t. There’s an infidelity; there’s an illness – or maybe there isn’t. And so the play bucks its way forward and back, such that we’re invited into the myriad what-ifs of Payne’s universe(s). Constellations offers a hundred glimpses across possible versions of this pair’s lives in which different outcomes come to pass.
The joy of the script is the realisation that every ending has to occur, a layering sure to assure as much as it leaves the audience with a distinct sense of melancholy. So, when we’re offered a view of an uplifting ending, we’re also reminded of those less-than-desirable ones that must also, surely, have happened to another Roland and Marianne. The tragedy, then, is not that such-and-such fate will occur, but that for some pairing, it was always going to occur.
But this is all mechanics. The play is not about its plot(s). As a two-hander invested in the philosophy of maybes and fate vs choice, Constellations foremost necessitates charismatic and endearing performances for its characters, some of whom we only encounter for a few seconds at a time.
Both Jordan Mooney (Roland) and Natalie Swart (Marianne) are delights on the stage, their dynamic and expressive performances sustained in bold, high-energy across the show. The script – which features virtually no stage directions and signals a change of universe with an indented rule line – leaves the director and actors to find their own interpretation; our Roland and Marianne are dramatically different in each universe, requiring Olympic level acting from our pair to take their characters in myriad directions.
Mooney’s Rolands are sometimes subdued, threatening, guarded or frustrated, depending on which universe they’re from; Swart’s Mariannes are toying, bashful, raunchy, forward. Particular delight can be found in Swart’s micro-expressions and hesitations that serve to enrich her Mariannes and colour her parts of the story.
However, because scenes often repeat (or near offer), and often with wildly different characterisations in Martin’s approach, it becomes difficult to grasp each character as whole or complete. Paradoxically, by having every possible version of these two, we’re given a limited sense of who they are.
While the galloping energy of the show undoubtedly entertains, it’s the performance’s unrelenting pace and unforgivingly high intensity that is its shortcoming. I recall a similar problem affecting Black Box Creative’s 2017 version of Romeo and Juliet in which our characters stormed and shouted their way through Shakespeare. The result is a double-edge sword for Constellations: the rapid-fire dialogue abhors boredom but also offers little emotional landscape and pigeonholes the performances in a way. The script is done in little over an hour and without pathos or thinking room. There’s a desperate need to relax, lest the audience be left behind.
Some additional aspects that are worthy of attention: the wooshing sound effects with micro blackout to signify the change of universe feels distractingly Doctor Who (the Gyllenhaal / Wilson clips online hint at a more subtle rear-of-stage cloud lightning and accompanying thunder effect). Contrast this with some fine lighting work and the set design; the simple, malleable staging and the flotsam of life – a tricycle, a suitcase, records, a boot, a picture frame – that floats above the stage as if falling through from higher universes.
The sum of the show is excellence distracted with some muddled deficiencies. Constellations is unquestionably entertaining, sustained by its energetic leads and hopeful what-iffery. It still shines, but could be more luminous yet.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer