Interview with Louise Brealey on ‘Constellations’


Following its critically acclaimed run on Broadway, Nick Payne’s award-winning play Constellations is coming back to London. Directed by Michael Longhurst and starring Louise Brealey alongside Joe Armstrong, the Royal Court’s UK tour of Constellations will run at Richmond Theatre from Tuesday 23 – Saturday 27 June.

Based on quantum multiverse theory, this romantic drama continues to explore life with urgency and poignancy, playfully considering everyday choices amongst the ‘what ifs’ we collect along the way. Through the relationship between scientist Marianne and bee-keeper Roland, the play asks questions that are both sad, funny and universal. As much as it is intellectual, Constellations also promises to be a deeply reflective and moving love story.

We spoke to the charming Sherlock actress Louise Brealey about what Constellations means to her.

I like how this play considers the pivot between choice and destiny. Do you think choice determines destiny or do you think our choices instinctively lead us to our destiny?

I don’t believe in destiny. Although my favourite quote from Back to the Future, or any film, really, is when George McFly approaches Lorraine in the diner and announces: “I am your density. I mean, your destiny.” (sic)

Constellations is such a rich and complex piece, proffering many different readings, which is certainly one of the things that makes it so valuable. What stood out to you from the script?

The script is a marvel. A deceptively simple boy-meets-girl, told through the prism of multiverse theory. I also wanted to do it because I knew it would be an immense technical challenge. You have to bring tens of different ‘versions’ of the character alive and it’s a trip.

What do you think of the ‘quantum multiverse’ perspective as a vehicle for understanding the existential issues explored in Constellations? Is it something you had ever considered before – the world we inhabit and the finality of choice as part of a parallel universe?

I hadn’t. My boyfriend, though, was delighted I was doing it, and showed me a million YouTube videos about the double-slit theory that blew my mind. I think the play asks as many questions as it answers.

Constellations prompts us to consider the inevitability of death. Was this difficult on a personal level?

I think everyone over a certain age has thought seriously about their own mortality or that of those they love. For me, it makes me want to live more in the moment.

Your social media presence is refreshingly down to earth – how do you find the balance between celebrity and artist?

On Twitter I just talk about the things I’m passionate about, really. Equality, social justice, Bruce Springsteen. I hope it doesn’t have any effect on my work, or on me engaging with characters. I think people take you as they find you, but I do acknowledge it’s important as an actor to not expose yourself entirely. So @louisebrealey is me, but she’s not the whole me. I don’t tweet about stuff that frightens me existentially or the workings of my heart. It’s an edit. So hopefully I can keep my powder dry in terms of roles.


What were the most important aspects of Constellations for you?

It was imperative that me and Joe got on and wanted to work in the same way. You are – at times literally – in each other’s arms up there. No props, no furniture, just us, a honey-combed black stage and the beautiful lights. And thank goodness we are great friends and are always trying to make our work better, listen more, be more truthful. Learning the different universe jumps was a challenge in the time we had, but now we both know the dance and the whole thing has become a joy to play.

What would you tell someone who has never seen the play before? What should they expect?

I’d say it was one of the most beautiful plays I’ve ever read. I’d say it’s incredibly funny and incredibly sad. I’d say it was a smash hit on Broadway and in the West End. I’d say it’s an hour and ten minutes long. I’d say it will make you think about life, the universes and everything.

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By Tara Flynn