Theatre / Review

All about Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle

We discovered five cool things about Simon Stephens’ new play at Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End.

Fear not, you don’t have to be an expert in the behaviour of quantum particles to see Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle. Although inspired by the work of German physicist Werner Heisenberg, the play has a non-intimidating storyline that’s easy to follow. It’s about two lonely people who learn that life is better when you stop trying to control things.

We got to check out Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle last week and here’s what we enjoyed most about the production.

Kenneth Cranham and Anne-Marie Duff

The two great actors

Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle stars Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham, and there’s nothing like seeing this talented pair tread the boards. Duff is best known for playing Fiona, the eldest daughter in the dysfunctional Gallagher family, on Channel 4’s Shameless. She received BAFTA nominations for that role as well as for her work in the films Suffragette, Nowhere Boy and The Virgin Queen. Cranham is no slouch either. He recently won an Olivier Award for his performance as a man suffering with dementia in the Florian Zeller’s The Father. Cranham is also appearing in the Oscar-tipped Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool set to be released this November.

The unconventional romance

Duff portrays Georgie Burns, a receptionist at a primary school, and Cranham is Alex Priest, a butcher who runs a small shop with no customers. He’s 75 and she’s 42. He’s British and she’s American. He’s quiet and goes on long walks. She’s high-strung and swears a lot. Neither of them has been lucky in love, so it’s hard to imagine they’d belong together. However, when Georgie kisses Alex impulsively at a train station, you can’t help rooting for them.

The bold and minimalist setting

Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle takes place on a mostly empty stage but it’s still a mechanical marvel. With walls that contract and expand, the space for each scene morphs throughout the play. Simple objects – such as a bench, counter or bed – rise from the floor. Plus, there’s a wall of radiant lighting that goes from white to hues of mauve, red and blue. The colours seem to reflect the emotions of Georgie and Alex, along with the ever-changing background of life.

The laugh-provoking dialogue

This play is the latest work from Simon Stephens, who’s won Olivier and Tony Awards for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. In addition to heart-rending conversations about their pasts, he’s filled Georgie and Alex’s dialogue with heart-warming, laugh out loud moments. Much of the humour comes as they confront their big age gap, like when Georgie says, “you were 33 when I was born”. And after being compared to a professor, Alex jokes that his retinas are floating around which “makes me look profound when I’m just confused”. There’s also a hilarious scene when Alex parades around in a $20 denim jacket that he says “feels like a bit of a misfire”.

The unpredictability of it all

Put in simple words you won’t need superhuman math skills to understand, Heisenberg’s most famous theory, the Uncertainty Principle, asserts that even when you think you know something with 100 percent certainty, you don’t. Georgie and Alex’s random meeting at the start of the play changes everything about their future. You’ll be truly surprised by the unpredictable journey these characters go on. And director Marianne Elliott, who recently scored raves reviews for her revival of Angels in America, keeps the plot’s momentum moving in a compelling way while capturing Stephens’ overall message: live in the moment.

Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle runs through 6 January 2018 at Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End. Tickets are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.

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