REVIEW: Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle

Kenneth Cranham and Anne Marie Duff

Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, first introduced in physics in 1927, states that the more precisely the position of a particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa.

Simon Stephens, known for the 2012 play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (based on the book by Mark Haddon) took loose inspiration from this principle for his off-Broadway play. It arrives at Wyndham’s Theatre this autumn under the direction of Marianne Elliot.

The plot is about the relationship between Georgie Burns (Ann-Marie Duff), an American woman in her 40s and Alex Priest (Kenneth Cranham), a 75-year-old butcher. Their love story develops from an encounter in a train station to a peculiar but compelling bond.

Duff’s character Georgie is forthcoming and somewhat hysteric – clashing frequently at first with Alex’s retained and sarcastic demeanour. This is reflected into a dialogue that is initially abrupt and humorous – but at times more awkward than amusing.

Slowly however, the intricacies and complexities of the character’s personalities are exposed as they connect and share intimate moments together. The conversation between the couple flows as their bond strengthens. It is hard not find yourself feeling sucked into the drama, and admittedly rooting for things to work out between them despite the differences and generational gap.

‘The production is impeccable’

The idea of uncertainty is used and played with in obvious ways throughout the script which do not warrant explanation. However, uncertainty is not an unfamiliar concept in storylines. It is certainly a common concept in day-to-day reality and perhaps this is what makes the story and its characters so relatable. The fact we can never be sure about certain things.

Story aside, the production is impeccable. The soundtrack, beautifully produced by German pianist Nils Frahm, suits the narrative well. Paule Constable’s lighting sets the mood for each environment. Such as the romantic glowing red of the restaurant scene, symbolizing growing passion. Then the growing brightness of a bedroom scene that represents the passing of time of a morning.

The moving furniture and props are majestically executed. I would highlight the moment when the walls close in on Georgie. We know this scene is purely psychological. The walls closing in are meant to illustrate her desperation and sense of feeling trapped, and it works flawlessly.

Stephens’ play lacks a stronger connection to science than the title suggests, however, Elliot’s direction under her new theater company Elliott & Harper Productions, alongside an incredible performance by Duff and Cranham, are able to make the story come to life brilliantly.

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Words: Aaron Bailey Athias