The butterfly effect on love
Nick Payne's Constellations, among the most well-received plays on West End and Broadway, comes to Nariman Point
When we ask theatre actors Mansi Multani and Jim Sarbh if they believe in true love, Multani smiles and nods her head. Sarbh launches into a monologue. "The same person in slightly different circumstances may not be your true love. So then, what is true love? True love is a product of circumstances and possibilities.
And it depends what you are open to [and] when. I may have already met the true love of my life, and just not been in a place to see it. So now, where are they? Am I saying there's no possibility of meeting another one like that? Love is a shout in the street: it comes in, [and] it floats by every now and then. I could truly love her just for a week; I could truly love someone else just for three years; I could truly love someone my [whole] life."
When Bruce Guthrie, the Scottish director of Constellations, tells us, "They were the best in the auditions," we believe him. For the roles of Marianne and Roland, the star-crossed lovers of Constellations, Multani and Sarbh haven't been cast as much as typecast.
The Indian adaptation of Constellations is a two-hander with 200 light bulbs. Marianne is a cosmologist; Roland is a beekeeper. When they set eyes on each other at a barbecue, they set off sparks and a dozen possibilities. Every situation they're in - the meet-cute, the first date, the breakup, the reconciliation - has several what-ifs, which play out either onstage or on video projections. It's love, set in a multiverse. "The multiverse could really apply to anything: science, spirituality, philosophy, relationships, choices we make, we don't make," says Multani. "Why do some things happen to you and not to somebody else? There is free will, but there are also things outside of your control. The theory [in Constellations] postulates both these ideas."
Guthrie is aware that discussions on string theory are usually accompanied by yawns. "It's like when people give lectures about space, and they talk about different gases and atoms and sound waves and electrons: it sounds very dry. But, then you see it, and it's some of the most incredible stuff. The colours, shapes, everything is mind-blowing. When you've got a play that explores quantum mechanics and beekeeping at the same time, it is an exciting challenge." So, one of the ways in which Guthrie has tried to explain the language of Stephen Hawking is by using the ideas of Thomas Edison.
The 200 light bulbs, even though you can see the tungsten, represent stars, née constellations. They flicker every time reality does a turnabout. "I'm interested in technology when it works with the actors and tells the story," says Guthrie. "It can't be flashy just for flashiness' sake. It has to work together in symmetry. We've got [just] the two of them for 70 to 75 minutes. So, you've got to have great actors first and foremost." Which he did, as he says, "Jim is a very flexible, very intelligent actor. He's got a really good charm about him, which is important for that character. Mansi just brought a likeability to Marianne. She's got a lovely, open quality that really suits the role."
As a Londoner, Guthrie has also had the opportunity to interact with the superstar playwright, Nick Payne, when the two were still finding their feet in the industry. "The first time I met Nick in 2009, I was working at the National Theatre in London, and he was working in the bookshop. He sold me a copy of his first published play, and we kept in touch. We met about nine months ago to talk about Constellations and it's a piece that's very, very close to his heart. It has been such a huge hit all around the world." After opening on West End in November 2012, it moved to Broadway in January 2015 and will debut at the NCPA Mumbai this month.
In Constellations, Payne explores the idea that true love is nothing but possibilities. Rather than seeing it as cynical, it's a thought that should comfort the broken. To know that in some parallel universe, things turned out alright. So, they just might in this one as well.
When: November 22-25
Where: National Centre for the Performing Arts, Nariman Point
Entry: Rs 650-Rs 750
Log on to: www.bookmyshow.com
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