Sparks fly as Russell Tovey and Omari Douglas bring queer, cosmic love story to the West End
Russell Tovey and Omari Douglas shine bright in the inventive, queer Constellations.
For every path we choose in life, there is another untrodden by us that exists as a a parallel reality. In one existence, you scoff as a friend of a friend drops a horrendously cheesy chat up line. In an alternate life, it leads you to a torrid affair. In another, marriage. And so on, and so on.
That’s the basic premise of Constellations. On paper it sounds fairly high concept, but in practice it’s a clever little rom-com full of laughter, soul-searching and heart – more Sliding Doors than Christopher Nolan. We follow the love story of Emmanuel (originally Marianne, but gender-flipped and played by It’s a Sin’s Omari Douglas) and Roland (the omni-present and ever-talented Russell Tovey). Scenes repeat and play out in new iterations, showing how love is rarely, if ever, straight-forward, and how even the smallest changes in our actions (or reactions) can have monumental impacts.
The script is smart and nimble, the sparse set design breathtaking, but pulling off the repetitive structure requires real stage presence. Fortunately, Tovey and Douglas are brimming with charisma and chemistry. They’re one of four pairs starring in this production – Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah alternated with Peter Capaldi and Zoe Wannamaker for the first part of the run, now Tovey and Douglas are job-sharing with Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd. The two men are the first to play Constellations as a queer love story – and in one scene, portray a version of the characters who are deaf and communicate in the Gay Sign Variant of British Sign Language, which has never been used on stage before.
This reviewer only saw the Tovey-Douglas production and not the Martin-O’Dowd version, but others have noted that the former is the sexier, funnier take of the two. Both men bring something different to the table: Tovey’s performance is grand, Douglas’ more intricate. Sparks fly when they’re together, with their physicality making the entire thing magnetic.
The result is a landmark of queer theatre, a triumph in storytelling. Despite the lofty concept, Constellations feels fun, fresh and heartening – mixing love, hate, comedy and tragedy with a deft touch.
Constellations is at the Vaudeville Theatre until 12 September and runs for 70 minutes without interval.
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