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Constellations at the Duke of York's

Published by: Carolin Kopplin on 18th Nov 2012 | View all blogs by Carolin Kopplin


Do you know why it’s impossible to lick the tip of your elbow?

Nick Payne’s intriguing metaphysical love story, first presented at the Royal Court Theatre, is based on quantum mechanics and the theory of “multiverses” or parallel universes. This subject is very present in film and on TV but has been sadly neglected by theatre with a few notable exceptions such as The Dark Materials.

Marianne, a talkative and bubbly quantum physicist, meets quiet, thoughtful Roland, a beekeeper, at a barbeque. They chat each other up and start a relationship. Or do they? In some of the universes Roland is married, in others Marianne and Roland get together and live through a relationship with all its ups and downs. They get married or not, admit to infidelities and part ways or not. It all depends on which one of the many multiverses you choose. There are infinite alternative possibilities as each situation is repeated in various scenes with different solutions. 


White balloons hovering over a bare stage seem to represent the various strings of the story and light and sound effects indicate the change to a different universe. The partly repetitive scenes could become boring, even in a 70-minute performance, but the actors approach each scene with so much enthusiasm emphasizing the differences that it seems like we see it for the very first time. Skilfully directed by Michael Longhurst and touchingly played by Sally Hawkins and Rafe Spall, this unsentimental love story is witty and intelligent with a bittersweet ending – but you decide. 

I urge you to go and see this unique play. 

By Carolin Kopplin

Until 5 January 2013

Royal Court at the Duke of York's 
Duke of York's Theatre 
St Martin's Lane 




  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 5 years ago
    Quantum physics, parallel universes and the theatre? Three of my favourite things! And I'm not joking. Thanks for the review, Carolin.
  • Carolin Kopplin
    by Carolin Kopplin 5 years ago
    It is a wonderful production.
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