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Stuart King


Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle Simon Stephens’ two-hander, Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle first seen on Broadway back in 2015, pairs the superb talents of Anne Marie Duff with Kenneth Cranham for the play's West End run at Wyndhams Theatre.

Integral to the plot, is a 30-year age disparity between the leads. Duff plays Georgie, an inherently sad yet superficially vivacious and garrulous American 40-something, who we learn is jobbing as a school receptionist in London. Cranham's Alex, a quiet and reflective butcher in his 70s, is the object of her fixation following a mistaken identity encounter at a railway station. He is initially confused and suspicious of her motives and the intensity of her need to connect with him, but his concerns are assuaged as scenes progress and they develop an unusual and seemingly charming mis-fit relationship along the lines of Harold and Maude.

Stephens' play doesn't quite measure-up to the phenomenal success of his most notable work to date, his adaptation for the stage of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, but it does possess considerable charm and more importantly, a twist which allows for a more complex exploration of the characters. His writing also requires that we question our motives and intentions in forming attachments and developing relationships. There are some inelegant phrases - particularly in respect to the scientific/mathematical basis for the play's title - but those aside, the overall sensitivity, warmth and genuine on-stage chemistry works well, even when the thorny issue of sex is thrown into the mix.

Action - or rather, gentle interplay - takes place on Bunny Christie's set of clean lines and unadorned functionality which further benefits from Paule Constable's sympathetic lighting states employed to subtly enhance the various moods and environments in which the couple find themselves.

Marianne Elliott, fresh from her considerable success with Angels in America at The National Theatre, is developing a reputation for directing casts with compassion and a determination to strive for a sense of truth. This production represents one of the first collaborative ventures of her partnership with producer Chris Harper, and on the strength of the results here, the future bodes well.

Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle