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Constellation Street review at the Other Room, Cardiff – ‘gut-punching’

Neal McWilliams in Constellations Street at The Other Room. Photo: Aenne Pallasca

No one can sleep in Matthew Bulgo’s Constellation Street. A clock ticks towards midnight as Ruth (Nicola Reynolds) sprays and wipes the last of the bar room tables. Then the bedside lamp flicks off in a hotel room, but Stephen (Neal McWilliams) still wanders like a lost soul into the night. Finally, the lights rise on a gig in a pub corner, but singer Alex (Gwenllian Higginson) radiates a nervous energy even her incessant walking cannot burn off.

The conceit of Bulgo’s work is to allow audiences to see three of a potential four monologues at a time; in addition to the three that made up the reviewed performance is a piece delivered by Frank (Roger Evans).

Designer Amy Jane Cook has partitioned the small space of The Other Room into a series of minuscule, hyper-realistic settings. The attention to detail is considerable and deliberate in all elements of the set, right down to the clinical arrangement of plastic milk cartons on a hotel shelf.

In this claustrophobic and exposing setting, Reynolds, McWilliams and Higginson give performances that start by lulling the audience into a false place of ease. There are jokes and friendly over-sharing, before the tone careers off into thudding heartache. Their narratives overlap, and so do their individual preoccupations with being a good person, loving those who leave, and struggling to believe in a divine plan.

Part of The Other Room’s Insomnia season, this is a gut-punching production that threatens to leave the audience as sleepless as the characters.

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Insomnia, regret and heartache combine in Matthew Bulgo’s forceful promenade piece