Don’t be intimidated by the title: Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle. This isn’t a play about the German physicist, but adapts his theory to emotions. The theory goes (briefly), if you are looking at an object closely enough, it is impossible to tell in which direction and at what speed it is going. In Simon Stephens’ new play, he takes this principle and applies it to two lovers: a kooky middle-aged American, and a geriatric British man.
A random encounter between two people at a train station sets this play rolling. She’s a middle-aged, eccentric woman called Georgie who lies about her life to keep things interesting. He’s a 75-year old butcher who lives on his own and enjoys keeping himself to himself. A total mismatch who we would think hardly spare a second glance toward each other, but mainly through her persistence do they get on.
Over six scenes we learn about the lives of Georgie (Anne-Marie Duff) and Alex (Kenneth Cranham). As he shares stories from his childhood, you can’t help feel drawn in, intrigued by Cranham's storytelling. Alex seems awkward, but you can’t help share Georgie’s enthusiasm for his stories. Through their conversations, they learn more about each other and, really, learn about what they think love is at their stages of life. Despite their age and obvious clash of character, you can see them fall for each other.
Simon Stephens’ script throws up some wonderful moments. Through their words, he can inspire you to want to leave the theatre and make the most of what time we have. But, whilst there isn’t much story - and what there is of one moves along swiftly - it’s a shame that at times, just as it seems to be getting to the nitty-gritty, the conversation changes and veers away from focus.
This is the debut of Elliott Harper Productions, a new company formed by director Marianne Elliott and producer Chris Harper. It also reunites the creative team behind Stephens’ huge hit The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and Elliott’s production is just as slick as you’d come to expect.
The actors naturally fall into place with split-second accuracy as the set appears from all over. They dance with the stage. With a huge wall of luminous colour as the backdrop, the walls of the stage move to squeeze every drop of emotion out of the performances. It’s a characteristically clean, simple but effective design. It looks stunning.
Duff gives a fine performance in Heisenberg. Offstage for only a few minutes, it’s hard not to be intrigued as to what Georgie has to say next, and to find out why she is falling for this man 33 years her senior. As the scenes transitions, she moves in the most precarious way. Cranham plays Alex as the wise, awkward man he is, but every now and again gives him an oust of much-needed passion, which without, may have risked his character seeming a bit dry.
It’s a small burst of an emotional play with moments of inspiring dialogue, which seems to be written to re-energise and revitalise its audience, whatever their age might be.
Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle is at Wyndham's Theatre until 6th January 2018.
Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle Tickets are available now.