“A change in formatting—from Normal to Bold, for instance—indicates a change in universe.”
So begins the script for Constellations, a play by Nick Payne which received its world premiere last winter at London’s Royal Court Theatre. The play tells the story—or perhaps, more accurately, stories—of Marianne, a quantum physicist, and Roland, a bee-keeper, and their love (or perhaps not) across the multiverse. In one 65-minute act, we experience every possible iteration of their relationship—they meet at a party when Roland is still in a relationship, and just out of a really serious relationship, and married, and single; and their first date goes horribly, and pretty well, and also just kind of fizzles, and they sleep together for the first time, and they don’t but they continue to date; and so on. Every possibility plays out in front of us.
As Marianne explains on at least one version of one of their first date:
“Every choice, every decision you’ve ever and never made exists in an unimaginably vast ensemble of parallel universes […] Let’s say that ours really is the only universe that exists. There’s only one unique me and one unique you. If that were true, then there could only ever really be one choice. But if every possible future exists, then the decisions we do and don’t make will determine which of these futures we actually end up experiencing.”