Romance in parallel universes

Edward Harrison and Stephanie Street in Constellations.
Edward Harrison and Stephanie Street in Constellations.PHOTO: SINGAPORE REPERTORY THEATRE

Constellations is a drama about two people whose relationship plays out depending on the choices they make

Constellations is a play about love and how one simple choice can have surprising consequences.

Actor Edward Harrison recently discovered the truth of this. He chose to go shopping with his girlfriend - something he did not want to do - and because of that met exactly the right person to help him research his role in the play put on next week by the Singapore Repertory Theatre.

Constellations opens on March 8 at the KC Arts Centre in Merbau Road. Written by British playwright Nick Payne and first staged in London in 2012, the play is often described as a date-night show.

Harrison's character Roland is an urban beekeeper and an introvert. He falls for Marianne, a physicist, played here by Singapore-born, London-based actress Stephanie Street.

The characters' relationship is shown as if occurring in parallel universes. Sometimes they break up, sometimes they stay together, depending on the choices one or the other makes.

  • BOOK IT / CONSTELLATIONS

  • WHERE: KC Arts Centre –Home of SRT, 20 Merbau Road

    WHEN: March 8 to 25, 8pm

    TICKETS: $15 to $60 from Sistic (call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)

    INFO: The play features some coarse language

The idea that different realities coexist is something proposed by theoretical physicists studying string theory.

It is not a new idea in theatre. American playwright Penny Penniston did something similar in her 2001 play, Now Then Again. The play set in a quantum physics lab and staged here last year by the NUS Theatre Ensemble explores the idea that a single action can affect both past and future.

Constellations goes deeper into the idea by showing several parallel universes. Street, 40, says: "Decision-making is important. The choice I make to smile at you, rather than sulk at you, could affect the rest of your life."

The day before Harrison, 35, was to fly out from London, he went out with his girlfriend. She was drawn to some antique jewellery featuring bees. The maker turned out to be an urban beekeeper who helped Harrison understand more about his character.

"I really over-reacted at the time," he recalls, laughing. "I thought she was sent from God."

Constellations is directed by Scotsman Bruce Guthrie, 35, who directed Singapore Repertory Theatre's 2014 Shakespeare In The Park production, Merchant Of Venice.

"It's quite nice to have a roof over our heads," he says of the new production.

He finds the central theme of the play disconcerting, if applied to real life. "It's weird to think that somebody who is me but not me can influence this reality. Am I Bruce Prime, the pebble that makes all the ripples in the multiverse? I don't know."

The play raises an important question about free will. Harrison says: "If everything I'm going to do already exists, what is the point of doing anything?"

Choice remains important, says Street, echoing the words of her character. "If there's only one choice, one way this can play out, that's not very satisfying."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Romance in parallel universes'. Print Edition | Subscribe