The Royal Court deserves applause for its commitment to touring some of its new work, even when it’s taken three years to get Nick Payne’s time-bending cosmological love story on the road, after an original run at the tiny Jerwood Theatre Upstairs followed by successful West End and Broadway productions.
This might suggest that by now this intriguing and exquisitely structured two-hander about the infinite variety of possibilities in human relationships is not quite the dazzling hot new product it once was. But if the initial critical buzz has cooled, Michael Longhurst’s production certainly hasn’t.
A new cast and a brand new cluster of hovering white balloons that provide a magical visual metaphor for Payne’s theatre-meets-science exploration of quantum multiverse theory, have given the play an exhilarating new lease of dramatic life for its journey into the parallel universe of UK regional theatre.
Joe Armstrong as laid-back bee-keeping Roland and Louise Brealey as edgily nervous quantum cosmologist Marianne both rise superbly to the challenge of coping with millisecond scene changes. They also humanise the meticulously constructed brief encounters we see when the couple meet, fall in love, marry or face death in a variety of situations and in entirely different time frames where several outcomes might co-exist simultaneously.
This is insightful acting that seems to penetrate right inside the quarks and quirks of ostensibly rom-com characters, while making complex conceptual points about string theory and symmetrical fates seem surprisingly sexy.