Everything you need to know about Heisenberg

Simon Stephens’ new play Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle opens in the West End this October.

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Yesterday we attended a behind-the-scenes look at Simon Stephens’ new play Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle, which previews at the Wyndham’s Theatre from 3 October this year.

In an exclusive Q&A session, playwright Stephens and director Marianne Elliott discussed the play and explained what audiences can expect when the production starts this autumn. Here’s what we found out.

What’s the play about?

In this uncertain world, who can predict what brings people together? Amidst the bustle of a crowded London train station, Georgie spots Alex – a much older man – and plants a kiss on his neck. This encounter thrusts these two strangers into a fascinating and life-changing game.

This surprising and life-affirming new show was described as “a soaring, suspenseful, thrilling and wondrous play” by New York Times critic Ben Brantley when it debuted on Broadway last year to Tony Award-nominated approval.

About the play, Stephens says, “I wanted to write about the most unpredictable and exciting woman I could imagine. I wanted to write a play about an older man because I’d never done that before. I wanted to write a play inspired by the way music works in the gaps between notes. I discovered ‘The Uncertainty Principle’ and it struck me that all life is contained within it”.

Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is one of the most famous (and probably misunderstood) ideas in physics. The quantum mechanics theory tells us that there is a uncertainty in nature, a fundamental limit to what we can know about the behaviour of quantum particles and, therefore, the smallest scales of nature. Dramatically, Stephens uses this principle to explore the relationships between humans and how much we can ever really understand each other.

Why do I know the name Simon Stephens?

Stephens is the critically acclaimed, award-winning playwright behind The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which enjoyed four years in the West End and is currently on tour across the UK and Ireland. During its premiere run, the play tied the then-record for winning the most Olivier Awards (seven), including Best New Play at the 2013 ceremony.

Who is Marianne Elliott?

Marianne Elliott is the award-winning director and producer most famed for her production of War Horse, which began at the National Theatre and then ran in the West End for seven years until 2016. She’s just completed her direction of the astounding production of Tony Kuscher’s Tony Award-winning masterpiece Angels in America, starring Andrew Garfield, Nathan Lane, Denise Gough and Russel Tovey, and other shows include the Tori Amos musical The Light Princess and The Little Foxes at the Donmar Warehouse.

She’s just started her own production company with fellow producer Chris Harper, and Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle will be their first production.

Who’s in it?

The London production of Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle will star the acclaimed Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham.

Cranham was last seen in the West End last year in The Father, for which he won the Best Actor Olivier Award at the 2016 ceremony. Duff has just finished her run at the National Theatre, starring in DC Moore’s new play Common; her previous credits include Macbeth on Broadway and TV roles in Shameless and Parade’s End.

Who else is involved?

Heinsenberg reunites the creative team behind Curious Incident (which Elliott also directed), including designer Bunny Christie and lighting designer Paule Constable.

At the Q&A, Elliott and Stephens discussed how the script calls for minimal staging – only really requesting two chairs on stage – but how Bunny was “never going to do that”, so one of the most exciting things about the new London production will be seeing how such a visually creative team as the Curious Incident gang translate Heisenberg on to the stage.

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