Dazzling ideas. Brilliant, involving dialogue. Superb, finely calibrated performances that amaze, awe and astound. Concepts and designs that enthrall and evoke real responses, trigger contemplation or action. Theatre that affects you, changes you, makes you consider aspects of the world differently. These are the marks of truly great theatrical endeavour. They are not the marks of Simon Stephens’ Heisenberg.

HeisenbergDirected by Mark Brokaw, starring Mary Louise Parker and Denis Arndt, Simon Stephens’ Heisenberg is having a critically approved – if not acclaimed – run at The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on Broadway.

It is 90 odd – very odd – minutes of enervating ineptitude.

Like a pallid shadow of Nick Payne’s Constellations, it concerns the uncertain and ever changing relationship between a man and a woman. But there the similarities end. Stephens’ words are so terminally boring, so thoroughly unengaging that torpor is the only true response to the text.

When Heisenberg is over, you have no better idea about what Stephens’ points or intentions are than you had before it started. But you are suffocating under a blanket of dreary incomprehensible gloom.

The acting is curious. Parker uses an odd screech to define her evershifting character; Arndt, a dry deadpan which makes him seem (wisely) detached. They have a curious chemistry but the text nails them to the floor.

The uncertainty principle, the brainchild of German physicist Werner Heisenberg, holds that the more precisely the position of something is ascertained, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa. (Well, that’s sort of it) Parker’s character puts it something like this:

If you watch something closely enough, you have no possible way of telling where it’s going or how fast it’s getting there

No arguments there. If you watch Heisenberg closely enough, you have no possible way of telling where it’s going or how fast it’s getting there.

SOURCEPhotography by Richard Termine
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Stephen Collins
With years of experience on both sides of the curtain, Stephen Collins has worked as an actor, singer, director, producer and casting consultant, indulging his passion for live theatre. Occasionally a media lawyer, who has worked in-house for the likes of Channel 4 and The Sunday Times, he can usually be found in an audience. In 2014 and 2015, he was lead critic for Britishtheatre.com. He thinks the West End and London is the centre of the theatrical universe (sorry Broadway!), but fears it's not possible to see absolutely everything that’s on there. He doesn’t stop trying though. Cocktails help when it all gets too much.