The Principle of Uncertainty

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, The Principle of Uncertainty managed to do both and present an unengaging show to boot.

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. 

Reviews by Miles Hurley

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The Blurb

Dr Laura Bailey knows how to explain to everyone counter-intuitive double slits experiments or the paradox of a cat in a box which is dead and alive at the same time. She believes the equations that tell her unequivocally of the existence of a myriad of different universes, but when faced with a crucial event, science falls short of showing her a way out. Written by a PhD in quantum mechanics, The Principle of Uncertainty blends some of the more advanced ideas of physics with a powerful emotional punch that will leave the audience reeling.