Updated: Mar 4
2019 is coming to an end, and over the course of 3 blog posts, I will be publishing a series that casts a critical eye of the last year of ETC, looking at what we did well, what we could have done better, and what we would like to do again.
Our final production of the year was Nick Payne’s “Constellations”, which took the audience on a journey across parallel worlds as we experienced Roland and Marianne’s love story again and again. It was Luke that introduced the group to the play, having studied it at uni. We read it and all enjoyed it, but sort of disregarded it to begin with as the cast was too small. However, once Ghosts was cast and in rehearsals, we realised that this was the perfect time for myself, Rhian and Luke to take on “Constellations”.
At ETC, we don’t usually have a director for productions, but we made an exception for “Constellations” as Luke had a clear vision for the piece, and with such a small cast, it’s important to have a third person there to give views and opinions and steer the actors in the right direction. This was clearly the right decision. Luke and I didn’t always agree on decisions, but we put our trust in him and thank goodness we did. The final design, with fairy lights, ominous voice overs and bad dancing, came together in a way that none of us (except Luke) could have predicted.
Rhian and I both found acting in “Constellations” to be incredibly difficult and tiring – the sheer rollercoaster of emotions left us feeling exhausted by the end of the 90 minute piece, as we went from elation at Roland and Marianne’s engagement to distress as Marianne found out she had a rare form of brain cancer. It was a hard piece to put together, and the later scenes were especially difficult to deal with.
Personally, I enjoyed this play – exploring the range of emotions, pushing myself to my limits as an actor. This is not necessarily what everyone wants to do as an amateur group – the subject matter does not always make for a fun relaxing evening. Going forward, we need to explore what everyone enjoys and does not enjoy about acting and start to pick plays that suit us and allow us to work to the best of our ability.
“Constellations” was clearly an appropriate choice for myself and Rhian, but might not have been a good fit for others that enjoy comedic or melodramatic styles of theatre. We found a similar thing with the audience – not everyone who enjoyed plays such as “Teechers” necessarily enjoyed “Constellations”, and vice versa. We want to appeal to a range of audience (and actors), and this means trying new styles of theatre and finding things that work for us.
This also means that every show we do will not appeal to everyone, and that’s fine. “Constellations” was off-the-wall and unique in so many different ways (an entire scene was performed in sign language!) and that’s not what everyone is into. Plays like “Constellations” are a hard sell, they’re not always going to get the biggest audiences, but we don’t do theatre to get big audiences and five star reviews – we do it to try something different. And sometimes it pays off. I think “Constellations” was a great show – and I hope we do more things like it in future.
Tom Morley, December 2019