Sometimes a show is so surprising that it takes a while to fully analyse what you have witnessed. This could be for a variety of reasons but ultimately, after a good night’s sleep, you can put all the ducks in a row and be at ease with the play. So, having got that out of the way, let’s take a look at The Principle of Uncertainty which I recently saw at the Draper Hall, Elephant & Castle’s newest theatrical venue.
As the doors opened, we were told that the lecture was about to start – a comment that raised a few eyebrows amongst the audience members – and that we were free to have a look around before taking our seats. This was worth doing as there were biographies of famous scientists on display, and personally, I would have welcomed a little bit longer to read them. However, in the lecture theatre type space, was Laura Bailey (Abi McLoughlin) who was occupying the time by coin tossing. As we took our places, Laura stopped what she was doing and welcomed us to our lecture on quantum mechanics. As Freshers we were given a bit of a high-level overview of quantum mechanics including some of the work of Austrian physicist, Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger famous for, among other things, his mathematical equation that described the evolution over time of a physical system in which quantum effects, such as wave-particle duality, are significant – okay, I had to look that up to remind myself of it. As the lecture goes on, we move into more theories and experiments, including the Double Slit Experiment and possibly one of the most famous theoretical devices known to humanity – Schrödinger’s Cat. During the lecture, Laura’s persona changes from that of dedicated quantum mechanics lecturer to someone more human and vulnerable whose love of probability and certainty may have more to do with personal factors and dreams than pure scientific interests.
I’m going to be honest, like some other members of the audience, I was slightly concerned that maybe I had arrived at the wrong event when The Principle of Uncertainty, started. However, Abi McLoughlin is such a brilliant performer that a couple of minutes in, I actually didn’t care if this was a play or an actual lecture. The subject matter itself was fascinating, full credit to writer Dr Andrea Brunello, and I have to admit I was amazed at how quickly I really got into the subject itself and actually managed to follow the science. Thanks to some excellent writing and acting, I had a lot of thoughts about subtle messages during the show. For example, Laura’s talked mentioned ‘nature’ a lot which initially struck me as slightly odd for a scientist but, as the play went on, and the story became more personal, started making much more sense in my head. It felt as if, to Laura, Nature was a literal thing, almost like God but without the mysticism associated with religion – an interesting concept. There was something else that really struck a chord with me, and that was Laura’s hair. She was continually – and to me it seemed unconsciously – winding it into a bun and then, as she moved around giving her lecture, it would fall down about her shoulders once more. I don’t know if this was a deliberate piece of direction by Stefania Bochicchio but, to my mind, it made a great analogy of the whole principle of uncertainty and how control is ultimately not possible. In fact, as I left and was contemplating the entire show, I did wonder about Laura’s father. Although not mentioned much, he was obviously quite an influence on her.
So, I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from The Principle of Uncertainty and initially I still wasn’t sure but, by the end, I had a great time seeing an excellent performance of a really fascinating subject which addressed one of the age old questions concerning science and humanity and the ability of the two to coexist in probable but uncertain togetherness.
Review by Terry Eastham
Dr. Laura Bailey (Abi McLoughlin), is a PHD in Quantum physics; she starts delivering a lecture to her freshers on the subject of quantum mechanics.
Leading her captive audience through double slits experiments and cats in boxes which are dead AND alive, all seems well and resonant with a perfect world when the lecture turns into a confession that mixes some of the more advanced ideas of physics with the professor’s secrets. As the scientific world clashes with our own emotions, the audience can’t help but empathise with the vulnerable academic, but what is the tragic tale that Professor Laura Bailey slowly reveals?
The play stars Abi McLoughlin and is written by Dr. Andrea Brunello, PHD in Mathematics and Quantum Physics from Cornell University and Stony Brooks and adapted by Stefania Bochicchio
A co-production Jet Propulsion Theatre and Infallible Productions Ltd.