Writer: Nick Payne
Director: Michael Longhurst
Reviewer: Karl O’Doherty
The elegant genius of Payne’s work is the perspective it presents. Much like the science that inspires it, the work contains meaning and depth curled around and hidden in each flashed scene. Over the course of an hour and a bit we begin to see the story on a micro and macro level, a universe and a particle at once.
It’s largely the same production that caused such a well-deserved fuss at the Royal Court last year, also directed by Longhurst. Playing Roland and Marianne this time are Joe Armstrong and Louise Brealey, an incredibly capable duo who carry off an intricate piece with panache.
Examining a theory of “many worlds” the play posits that for each decision you “ever and never” make, a new timeline, or world, is created, forking off the one you are conscious of. We see Roland and Marianne meet at a barbecue. He has a girlfriend so isn’t interested in talking. In a flash we’re back and this time he’s married, then single and interested in the next iteration. Continuing in this exploration of the implications extant from the tiny choices and reflexive responses we make, our tones of voice, actions and words used we see a beautiful but tragic romance unfolding (or sometimes not).
Constantly presenting an alternate version of events, and a disrupted timeline, there’s not really a straight path through this chaos to the final moments. But why should there be. This is the outcome that exists in an infinite number of universes, and was reached in an infinite number of ways. Through nuanced, exciting performances from Brealey and Armstrong, and confident direction from Longhurst, Payne’s complex ideas are brought to life vividly here, gifting the audience with understanding unencumbered by a heavy-handed explanation of some of the scientific world’s most complex theories.
Tom Scutt’s bare stage framed by balloons once again reflects the recursive nature of the piece, reminding us that we’re discrete units thrown together and our bonds are sometimes more convenience than necessity. Our choices dictate which world we live through. Make the right one and choose to see this play.
Runs until 1st August| Photo Helen Maybanks