Constellation Street written by Matthew Bulgo is a combination of four monologues that interlink with each other. Just like Matthew Bulgo’s ‘Last Christmas’ produced by Dirty Protest these stories are cleverly thought out and are both captivating and raw. For this production the team at the Other Room Theatre completely had their work cut out. For anyone who has already been to the Other Room Theatre they wouldn’t have thought it possible that a conventional theatre space could be turned into three separate rooms in completely different habitats. One a hotel room, another a back of the taxi cab and one a bar. What made this show even more unique was they used a part of the courtyard for the final scene. It all worked magnificently. There were some occasions when you could hear what is being said in the other spaces but it didn’t take away from the performance. This really showed the different dimensions of each monologue.
Not only did I get the chance to watch this incredible immersive performance, but I also had the privilege to overlook one of their rehearsals to get a feel of what it would be like directing a production. Watching Chelsey Gillard and Dan Jones at work, both of them taking two monologues each to work on, it was evident that their artistic minds knew exactly how to take on this performance and they both did tremendously. In this rehearsal, a week before the show, I had the chance to watch Nicola Reynolds performing the pub landlady. Even at this point in time she had the character pretty much nailed and it was wonderful to watch. Her mannerisms and the way she effortlessly told her story was endearing. I’m gutted that I didn’t get to see her perform in the actual show but it gives me another excuse to watch this show again!
The first room I went into was laid out as if we were in the back of a taxi cab. Roger Evans, playing Frank had his back to us for the majority of the performance with the front mirror showing his reflection. This made his performance even more realistic and raw which made this scene more emotional, it felt like you were there to really consolidate with the character. This is a great way to break away from traditional theatre settings and to show people that the character doesn’t always have to be on a stage speaking out to the audience.
Then our mini group got lead out into the courtyard for a musical interlude which was a rendition of “All I Want” by Kodaline, sung by Gwenllian Higginson. What once was a lovely lyrical song turned into quite an amusing karaoke bash. Even though it was just a musical interlude we really felt for Gwenllian’s character, and it gave us an insight of what might to come later with her performance.
The second monologue I saw was the character of Stephen played by Neal McWilliams. We entered into a room that looked like a generic hotel room with the classic painting on one of the walls. We were all told to sit down, get comfy and even sit on the bed. Personally this took me out of the mind frame of being an audience member and here to really listen to what’s being said and to give advice or help in any way. The monologue was, heart wrenching, it showed themes of betrayal and loss. Neal really took us through the characters life which started off quite pleasant but then turned as the story went on. It felt like he was completely reliving what had happened and the memories he has. By the end of it all I wanted to do was give him a great big hug.
The final scene took place in the courtyard with the character of Alex, played by Gwenllian Higginson. I already had the privilege to watch Gwenllian’s scene, and see a section of it being performed. However listening to it being doing outside it felt like it was the first time I was hearing the words again. Gwenllian, played Alex as a sassy girl who appears to be in control of everything, someone who has been through a lot. Her ability as an actress to show the different emotions she has with ease and convincingness was inspiring to watch. There were some real comedic elements to this monologue which she played with great timing and demeanour. It was tense and you were completely drawn in to everything she was saying. The only downside was that you could hear the Porter’s customers in the other section of the courtyard and due to it being a Friday night it was generally quite loud. However the one up side to this is that it felt like we were at a open mic night or at a stand up comedy where it would be loud. This I believe enhanced the intensity given to the scene.
Not only was the acting outstanding, but the whole company really went above and beyond in making this performance unique and memorable. Matthew Bulgo is a genius when it comes to writing original and amazing stories that really grip the hearts of audiences. The monologues interlinked beautifully. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it and would love to be taken on this journey again.