BWW Review: Predictability Increases Unpredictability in Canadian Stage's HEISENBERG

BWW Review: Predictability Increases Unpredictability in Canadian Stage's HEISENBERG

Uncertainty, or the state of being uncertain, involves not being able to clearly identify or define something. Simon Stephens' HEISENBERG thrives on uncertainty. Using physicist Werner Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle as the underlying theme, Canadian Stage's production fuses science and love in a hard-to-follow tale of "opposites attract".

Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle states that you can never simultaneously know the exact position and the exact speed of an object because everything in the universe behaves like a particle and a wave at the same time. Confusing stuff - let's break it down. The more that you decrease the uncertainty (the more precise you become) of the position of an object, the more that you increase the uncertainty of momentum of the object. To tie this into Stephens' HEISENBERG, the closer you come to identifying what's happening in the play, the more unpredictable the piece becomes.

Director Matthew Jocelyn's production is a bit like a science experiment. Jocelyn puts his actors on display in the round, revolving extremely slowly on a modest turntable (designed by Teresa Przybylski). Set in the round, facing other audience members, you are more aware that you are collectively observing something. Jocelyn places two extremely different people in the centre of the stage and the experience begins.

The experience in HEISENBERG is a bit hard to follow. Georgie (Carly Street) and Alex (David Schurmann) meet for the first time on a subway platform. After an introduction of lies on Georgie's part, she tracks Alex down to his butcher shop and attempts to begin the first impression process again. An unusual attraction blooms, divided by a 40-year age gap and a stark contrast in personalities and energies. Georgie slowly reveals that she is trying to track down her son and needs money to find him, creating uncertainty behind her motives for approaching Alex in the first place.

The age gap isn't the only thing making these lovers so opposite. As Georgie, Street buzzes with energy. She is provocative, but clearly aware of her own eccentricity, at one point asking Alex, "Do you find me exhausting, but captivating?"

Alex is more cautious and static. Schurmann carefully selects his words and moves slowly, analyzing Georgie's incessant ranting. Alex spends his days working in the same shop, walking home for an hour and a half every day, and writing exactly 50 words in a diary that he has been keeping for the past 67 years. Alex is the particle to Georgie's wave. He grounds her. Street and Schurmann are fantastic in these roles, bringing two very human characters to life on the stage.

I've mentioned a few times that HEISENBERG is hard to follow - it's mainly due to the unpredictable nature of the script. As soon as you begin to follow the flow of things, Street's Georgie changes direction with enthusiastic randomness. You can depend on this. You can also depend on the lovers being very different. That is about as predictable as the play gets. The rest of HEISENBERG is unpredictable, and that makes it incredibly captivating to watch.

HEISENBERG is presented by Canadian Stage and runs through December 17, 2017 at the Berkeley Street Theatre

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit

Runtime is 80 minutes with no intermission

Main photo credit: David Schurmann and Carly Street, photo by Cylla von Tiedemann.

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From This Author Taylor Long

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