Please tell us about the play, and what it is about.
Constellation Street takes place over the course of one night in Cardiff, between midnight and dawn. It follows the story of four characters - a pub landlady, a taxi driver, a school teacher and a young girl - who are all stuck in their own personal purgatories. Their past actions are weighing on them heavily and they’re desperate to find a way of moving forward. This one particular night their paths happen to clash and interweave. The play is set during the night because that’s the time when the world is most quiet and still and they have the time and space to pick over the bones of their past actions.
Has the play changed given the current circumstances? How?
I’m really interested to see how the play sits in the current world. When it was first produced in 2016, I remember it was a remarkably hot spring and there was a real optimism and vibrancy in the air in Cardiff. The national football team were just about to embark on a very successful campaign in the Euros, David Cameron (remember him?) was still Prime Minister and we were still living in a world where Brexit and all the chaos that has followed was yet to happen, and Barack Obama was still the leader of the free world. It felt strange to be staging a dark and brooding play in such relatively upbeat times but people seemed to enjoy it.
I re-read an essay by the American theatre practitioner Anne Bogart recently about ‘Context’. It’s an essay that’s really stayed with me over the years. She talks about a production called ‘Radio Play’ which was a staged version of Orson Welles’ ‘War of The Worlds’ produced by her theatre company in the early 2000s. The production was touring and receiving healthy audiences. Then 9/11 happened. Suddenly audiences were watching the play through a totally different lens because of this tragedy that happened on their home soil. The images in Welles’ story - images of smoke filled streets, of citizens running for their lives, of mass panic, of an enemy on domestic soil - resonated in a whole different way. The show continued its tour post-9/11 despite many theatres wanting to pull it for fear its content would be too close to the bone. In fact, audiences flocked in their droves. They wanted to gather together and grieve, they wanted to discuss and understand, they wanted community and they wanted catharsis.
In Constellation Street, the characters are all in limbo, they’re in mental ‘lockdown’, their world is quiet and still and that gives them time to reflect on the past and hope for the future. I hope that some of those things resonate at a slightly different frequency for audiences this time around. That said, I’ve been writing long enough to know I should never second guess what an audience is going to make of something!
How did you approach having to re-stage the play, in our new circumstance? What was challenging / easy about this?
I’ve not been involved in rehearsals at all this time around. I popped into a little meet-and-greet this week to say hello to the cast and creative team and then left them to their own devices. I’m absolutely thrilled with the team that’s been assembled to work on the reading. I’m a huge fan of all four of the cast members, it’s been great working with the director Dan Jones again and when I heard that Tic Ashfield was going to be rustling up a sonic world for the reading that was the real cherry on the cake. I’m sure finding a way of re-staging it in these current times has come with it’s challenges but I’ve left that to Dan! We’ve worked together quite a few times now and he directs with real clarity, sensitivity and grace. I trust that he’s made some astute choices. I’ve purposely not re-read the play over the past few weeks, in fact I’ve not read it in it’s entirety since we rehearsed it in 2016, so I’m looking forward to sitting down on Saturday night and doing that thing that we’ve all been doing for millennia - gathering around the campfire (for ‘campfire’ read ‘screen’) and listening to some stories.