Making a show about science interesting to a general audience is an extremely difficult feat. You risk losing anyone without a scientific background in the details, and condescending to those who know what you’re talking about. I appreciate the effort. However,
An earnest performance isn’t enough to save it from being simply unenjoyable.
The Principle of Uncertainty is a story about a woman struggling to deal with the loss of her daughter, but it never really seems like that, and it doesn’t present itself as such. The show is really about an introduction to quantum mechanics lecture that is made for people who fundamentally don’t understand what quantum mechanics is, by a woman who is extremely interested in her subject matter. It’s reminiscent of any university student’s first lecture, one where the lecturers seem less interested in teaching you subject matter, but instead trying to tell why you should study the subject that they like. I didn’t mind this when I sat down in my first university lecture, but for an hour of entertainment, it just isn’t engaging. I am not a science student, but I have a basic understanding of what quantum mechanics are and how they function within the world of physics. And for me, a lecture explaining the idea that electrons act as both a wave and a particle, and that the observation of an object on a small enough scale means that we can’t know it’s velocity was just condescending. And I can only imagine how terrible it would be if I studied science.
Beyond this, the show sinks into hard sentimentality. The lecturer connects the idea of uncertainty to the death of her daughter, that up until the moment of her death, she didn’t know what that death would mean. The energy changes at that point from being quirky and silly to being borderline maudlin. And while the lead performer, Abi McLoughlin, does a great job, it isn’t enough to make this tone shift work or to make either part by itself functional. This show is hard to watch, and an earnest performance isn’t enough to save it from being simply unenjoyable.