Constellations (play)

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Written byNick Payne
Date premieredJanuary 19, 2012 (2012-01-19)
Place premieredRoyal Court Theatre Upstairs
Original languageEnglish

Constellations is a two-hander play by the English playwright Nick Payne.


Constellations premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in January 2012, with Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins in the lead roles and direction by Michael Longhurst.[1] The play received strong reviews from critics and subsequently transferred to the Duke of York's Theatre in the West End in November 2012.[2] The reviewer for The Guardian wrote "For all its teasing razzle-dazzle, though, it is the human warmth of the writing and acting that ensures the play never slides into tricksiness."[3] In November 2012 Constellations was named the winner of the best play category at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards, making the 29-year-old Payne the youngest winner of the award.[4] The play will tour the UK, starting in May 2015 at Woking's New Victoria Theatre.[5]

The play premiered on Broadway in a Manhattan Theatre Club production at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on January 13, 2015 and closed on 15 March 2015. The cast starred Jake Gyllenhaal (in his Broadway debut) and Ruth Wilson.[6] Ruth Wilson received a nomination for the 2015 Tony Award, Best Performance By a Leading Actress in a Play.[7] The play received three Drama League Award nominations: Best Play, Best Actor, Gyllenhaal, and Best Actress, Wilson.[8] A production opened on February 10, 2016 at the Boise Contemporary Theater in Boise, ID, running through March 5, and starring Dwayne Blackaller and Tiara Thompson and directed by Tracy Sunderland.

In January 2013 Payne revealed that a film adaptation was under way.[9] That plan has since been shelved.

The play has premiered in Los Angeles at the Geffen Playhouse with Ginnifer Goodwin and Allen Leech and director Giovanna Sardelli.[10]

The play premiered in Perth, Western Australia in June 2018 with Paul Davey and Madelaine Jones and directed by Brendan Ellis.

In November 2015, the Chinese-language premiere is directed and translated by Wang Chong in Beijing. He uses 13 cameras on the stage to conceptualize the play into a "stage movie" with 50 long takes as the 50 scenes. The result is a very intimate cinematic experience in theater. A real hamster is also put on the stage as if it is the god of time and universe who dictates the cuts of the "movie" and the possibilities of life. Because of the show's success, the actress Wang Xiaohuan is noted by The Beijing News as The Young Theater Artist of the Year.[11]

Plot Summary[edit]

The play follows Roland, a beekeeper, and Marianne, a cosmologist through their romantic relationship. Marianne often waxes poetic about cosmology, quantum mechanics, string theory and the belief that there are multiple universes that pull peoples' lives in various directions. This is reflected in the play's structure as brief scenes are repeated, often with different outcomes.

Roland and Marianne meet at a barbecue and become romantically involved. After they've moved in together, a confession of infidelity causes them to break up. After some time, they run in to each other at a ballroom dancing class, resume their relationship, and eventually marry. Marianne begins to forget words and has trouble typing. She is told by her doctor that she has a tumor in her frontal lobe and has less than a year to live. She eventually seeks assisted suicide abroad with Roland's support. The play ends with a flashback to the scene where Roland and Marianne rekindle their relationship in the dance class.


Several versions of the play have been published in the United Kingdom and the United States.[12][13]


  1. ^ Shenton, Mark. "Sally Hawkins and Rafe Spall to Star in Nick Payne's 'Constellations' at London's Royal Court", 1 December 2011
  2. ^ " Constellations Listing, Duke of York's Theatre", accessed 6 May 2015
  3. ^ Gardner, Lyn. "Review" The Guardian, 18 November 2012
  4. ^ "Nick Paynes Constellations Wins Best Play at ES Theatre-Awards" The Stage, 2012
  5. ^ Shenton, Mark. " 'Constellations' Will Tour the U.K.", 03 March 2015
  6. ^ Purcell, Carey. "Jake Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson Explore 'Constellations' on Broadway", 16 December 2014
  7. ^ Gans, Andrew. "69th Annual Tony Awards Nominations Announced!", 28 April 2015
  8. ^ " 'Constellations' Listing", accessed 6 May 2015
  9. ^ Independent profile of Nick Payne, 2 January 2013.
  10. ^ "Constellations". Geffen Playhouse. Retrieved 24 May 2017.
  11. ^ 胡哲. "Play of scenarios in love seeks to bemuse Beijing[1]". Retrieved 2018-11-01.
  12. ^ Payne, Nick (2012). Constellations. Revised Edition. London: Faber & Faber. ISBN 9780571301966. OCLC 862086790.
  13. ^ Payne, Nick (2014). Constellations. First American Edition. New York: Faber & Faber. ISBN 9780865477711. OCLC 906061703.