The two-hander, which follows Roland, a beekeeper, and Marianne, a cosmologist, through their blossoming romantic relationship, has been revived in London with a twist.
Between June and September, four different duos will play the couple – starting with Sheila Atim and Ivanno Jeremiah, then Peter Capaldi and Zoe Wanamaker, Omari Douglas and Russell Tovey, and Anna Maxwell Martin and Chris O’Dowd.
As Marianne discusses quantum mechanics, string theory and theories of multiple universes, the play’s structure changes, with scenes repeated with different outcomes.
Director Michael Longhurst joined Atim and Jeremiah on stage for the curtain call and encouraged the audience to light up the auditorium with their phones like a constellation.
Some theatres have reopened, but may only host a limited audience in accordance with social distancing measures until July 19.
The play premiered at the Royal Court in January 2012 featuring Rafe Spall and Sally Hawkins in the lead roles and Longhurst as director.
Longhurst, now artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse theatre in Covent Garden, has returned to direct the current production.
He said: “We’ve not been able to stage work for over 15 months, and to come together, to laugh and to cry together, and share Nick Payne’s exquisite story has been incredibly special for us all.
“It’s a play I know and love – and we’re discovering it afresh with the multi-casting.
“A casting decision that was born of these times, to ensure the show can go on every night, has enabled us to unlock the show in so many new ways artistically.”
The Underground Railroad star Atim and Black Mirror’s Jeremiah will feature in the lead roles until August.
Andrew Lloyd Webber said in a statement on Friday that theatre had been treated as “an afterthought and undervalued” by the Government during parts of the unlocking process, after the end of social distancing measures was pushed back by a month.
Lord Lloyd-Webber also rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s offer for the impresario’s musical Cinderella to be included in the pilot scheme.