Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle

Previewed 3 October 2017, Opened 9 October 2017, Closed 6 January 2018 at the Wyndham's Theatre in London

Marianne Elliott's West End Premiere of Simon Stephens' play Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle starring Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham

In this uncertain world, who can predict what brings people together? When two strangers meet by chance amidst the bustle of a crowded London train station, their lives are changed forever.

Marianne Elliott said she was drawn to this play because "there was something incredibly beautiful about these characters who find each other just by happenstance, and through the course of six scenes, and six weeks, they affect surprising changes in each other and in themselves."

The German physicist Werner Heisenberg introduced 'the uncertainty principle' in 1927, stating that the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa.

The cast for this two-hander features Anne-Marie Duff as 'Georgie Burns' and Kenneth Cranham as 'Alex Priest'. Directed by Marianne Elliott with movement by Steven Hoggett, designs by Bunny Christie, lighting by Paule Constable and sound by Ian Dickinson.

This production reunites director Marianne Elliott with playwright Simon Stephens following their award-winning success with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which Simon Stephens adapted for the stage from the novel by Mark Haddon.

When this production opened here at the Wyndham's Theatre in October 2017, Michael Billington in the Guardian thought that, "while it is presented with great panache, Heisenberg is basically a slender, romantic fable that uses science to provide a bit of intellectual stiffening... Both actors are excellent and the play has many moments of quiet pleasure. Yet I canít help feeling it is an escapist fantasy." Neil Norman in the Daily Express said that "playwright Simon Stephens delivers an unvarnished tale of two characters adrift in their own lives and is aided by a brace of intoxicating performances." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail commented that "this play is little more than a slender if charming love story... The staging is terrifically slick ó you almost wonder if it is compensation for the thin plot... the acting is certainly bespoke, but the scientific element is marginal and pretentious." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times noted how "the piece overall feels moderately wacky by West End standards but restrained on Simon Stephens' terms, as if he were either testing how far he can take a mainstream enterprise or simply dealing discretely with two different constituencies, here and in his more characteristic work." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard described it as being "a low-key, elegant two-hander," adding that "the dialogue is best when most immediately personal. While Marianne Elliott's production is bold, revelling in great swathes of primary colour, the play feels slight. It's also oddly predictable ó flecked with moments of charm, but sometimes clunkily portentous." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that this is "a slightly cutesy, slow-burn romance between two people existing in a state of emotional loss (and, yup, uncertainty)," explaining that "this easy-to-chew theatrical morsel is the palatable essence of pre-supper theatre." Paul Taylor in the i newspaper noted how "the two actors have superb chemistry. After a life of stoic disappointment in love and orderly uneventfulness, Kenneth Cranham's Alex is as measured in movement and precise of utterance as Anne-Marie Duff's Georgie is an over-sharing gabbler who delivers a running commentary on her weirdness." Ann Treneman in the Times wrote that "this is a very simple play posing as something more sophisticated... the pace jogs along well enough but it is hard to care much for the characters or about the rather hackneyed dating situation of 75-year-old man meets 42-year-old woman with a GSOH but no dosh. The acting is very good, though... but in general there is a lack of chemistry."

Anne-Marie Duff's London theatre credits include Thea Sharrock's revival of Terence Rattigan's play Cause Celebre at the Old Vic Theatre in 2011; Polly Teale's staging of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House for Shared Experience at the Ambassadors Theatre in 2000; and Howard Davies' production of Donald Margulies' Collected Stories at the Haymarket Theatre in 1999.

Kenneth Cranham most recently played the title role in James Macdonald's production of Florian Zeller's black comedy The Father at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2015 and again at the Duke of York's Theatre in 2016. He also originated the title role of 'Inspector Goole' in Stephen Daldry's landmark revival of JB Priestley's An Inspector Calls at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre in 1992 and the West End transfer to the Aldwych Theatre in 1993. His other credits include Peter Gill's revival of Gaslight at the Old Vic Theatre in 2007.

"Kenneth Cranham is wonderfully, unbudgeably solid as Alex, a grumpy old butcher with a shop that hardly anyone visits any more... Anne-Marie Duff lights up the stage as his polar opposite, Georgie, a fabulously vivacious, dishonest, sweary, verbose and sexy fireball who works as an assassin; no, a waitress; no, make that a receptionist... With various twists, revelations and betrayals, it's a recognisable romcom plot: elderly curmudgeon, jaundiced and tired of the world, is brought back to life and love by the warmth and spontaneity of a younger woman... It is charmingly done and beautifully acted by the two leads, and Bunny Christie's spare set and Paule Constable's lighting look like something by Mark Rothko. It's also quite slight, though, making the title seem portentous... But for a pleasant, touching little romcom with some funny lines and likeable performances, Heisenberg hits the spot nicely." The Sunday Times

"Despite the alarming title, you donít need to be a quantum physicist to get the gist here: particles are as unpredictable as people. The equation is set up when a young receptionist kisses a 75-year-old man on a bench, implausibly thinking heís someone else... Anne-Marie Duff shimmers as the girl who giggles and may be a psycho. Kenneth Cranham is also excellent as the jowly butcher whoís more into Bach sonatas than bacon slices. Well acted as it is, the writing feels enslaved to a waffly metaphor about human behaviour. For a play about a butcher, itís disappointingly short on real meat." The Mail on Sunday

"In Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle, two strangers meet at a station and embark on a relationship that is at once utterly unbelievable and drearily predictable. Georgie is a kooky American of the kind that is, thankfully, only encountered on stage and film; Alex is an English butcher 33 years her senior. During a series of short scenes in his shop, near her work and, most implausibly, in bed the only interest is whether her designs are more on his body or his purse. Some gentle humour aside, Heisenberg's virtues are purely economic, being a two-hander on a largely bare stage. Anne-Marie Duff and Kenneth Cranham give committed performances but Marianne Elliott's modishly cool production compounds the artifice of the play." The Sunday Express

Simon Stephens's play Heisenberg: The Uncertainty Principle was originally seen in New York in a production directed by Mark Brokaw with a cast that featured Denis Arndt as 'Alex Priest' and Mary-Louise Parker as 'Georgie Burns'. It initially played a six week season off-Broadway at the New York City Center's Stage II Theatre before transferring to Broadway's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre for a two month run in 2016. Please note that this West End Premiere is an entirely new production.

Heisenberg in London at the Wyndham's Theatre previewed from 3 October 2017, opened on 9 October 2017 and closed on 6 January 2018