Photograph 51

Theatre, West End
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 4 out of 5 stars
(8user reviews)
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 (© Johan Persson)
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© Johan Persson

Stephen Campbell Moore (Maurice Wilkins), Nicole Kidman (Rosalind Franklin) in 'Photograph 51'

 (© Johan Persson)
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© Johan Persson

Stephen Campbell Moore (Maurice Wilkins), Nicole Kidman (Rosalind Franklin) in 'Photograph 51'

 (© Johan Persson)
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© Johan Persson

Patrick Kennedy (Don Caspar), Nicole Kidman (Rosalind Franklin)in 'Photograph 51'

 (© Johan Persson)
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© Johan Persson

Nicole Kidman (Rosalind Franklin)in 'Photograph 51'

 (© Johan Persson)
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© Johan Persson

Nicole Kidman (Rosalind Franklin) in 'Photograph 51'

 (© Johan Persson)
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© Johan Persson

Nicole Kidman (Rosalind Franklin) and the company of 'Photograph 51'

 (© Johan Persson)
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© Johan Persson

Joshua Silver (Ray Gosling), Nicole Kidman (Rosalind Franklin) in 'Photograph 51'

Nicole Kidman is riveting as scientist Rosalind Franklin in her return to the West End.

Seventeen years since her last London performance in the sexually charged ‘The Blue Room’, Nicole Kidman returns to the heart of the West End in a starkly contrasting play: Anna Ziegler’s remarkable ‘Photograph 51’.

Michael Grandage’s powerful, captivating production offers an informative and haunting portrayal of Dr Rosalind Franklin, the pioneering scientist who was the first person to discover the shape of DNA. The image she took – photograph 51 – which clearly showed DNA to be a double helix, ultimately changed science for ever. But Franklin, who died aged just 37, was never properly credited for her work.

The play reflects one woman’s singular ambition to strive towards scientific breakthrough in a time of sexism and elitism post-WWII. Christopher Oram’s eerie set recreates the bombed King’s College – where Franklin worked on her research – complemented by Neil Austin’s incredible hollow lighting. Grandage’s direction sees actors lurking in the underground lair of the laboratories and features subtle yet chilling pulses of music, which mix with your own heartbeat.

Kidman plays the role of Franklin with great stillness and intelligence. There are moments when the acting could be bolder, but from the moment she makes her discovery and holds photograph 51 in the light, Kidman’s stiff and powerful demeanour keeps you riveted.

Joshua Silver brings a great light-hearted feel to his portrayal of Franklin’s lab assistant Ray Gosling and there are strong performances from the rest of the cast. Narration to the audience keeps the plot moving swiftly, allowing no time for the mind to wander as you are repeatedly thrown into ever-changing time zones and stories.

Kidman recently stated: ‘The injustice of it all lit something inside me and I felt a deep need to share Rosalind’s story with the world.’ That she most definitely does, with truth and dignity.

By Time Out reader Camilla Summerfield, for our reader takeover issue, hitting the stands September 22.

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2 of 2 found helpful
Tastemaker

This for me was an interesting history lesson that I was unaware about. I remember well Watson & Crick from my A level biology days but didn't realise their discovery was based on Dr Franklin's research. The set is atmospheric & effective, the actors well cast & it's well written- but I found it as an entity too dry. Nicole Kidman was great but I don't think I would rush to see this play without such a star at the helm. The story is poignant & I'm glad I'm enlightened but I wouldn't list it as a must see theatrical event

Tastemaker

If you ask me, one can't really go wrong with a theatre show starring Nicole Kidman as a female scientist doing DNA research! To my knowledge, the scrip was not 100% historically accurate and certainly simplified the story for the sake of making a point about the endless struggle of women working in a male-dominated industry, the importance of collaboration and that even the strongest amongst us need some love. It was interesting, educational and touching – what else can one ask for from a West-End theatre show?

Tastemaker

Really interesting real story of the life of Jewish chemist Rosalind Franklin. Nicole Kidman was so relaxed and easy-to-play this role that you immediately feel touched by Rosalind's life. The story goes smoothly but I would expect to cover even more facts of Rosalind's life and last more. I was amazed by the set design - they were exactly what should have been in order to get you in that part of the past. Much appreciated the fact that the producers decided to offer plenty 10£ tickets for every performance. Lovely play for a relaxed night out!


Excellent play and amazing performance by Nicole Kidman - definitely worth seeing if seats are still available! I didn't really know what to expect as I got the tickets due to the lead actress and I am so glad I did! Apart from educating about the life of a great scientist who was not recognised enough during her life, the play also carries contemporary reflections regarding gender equality and competition in the workplace. The supporting cast worked well with Kidman and the set was perfect for the play's needs. The feeling one has by the end of it all, lingers for quite some time..

Tastemaker

As another reviewer wrote, for me too Nicole Kidman was the whole reason I bought the tickets. But in my case she did disappoint. She was by no means bad in her role as scientist Rosalind Franklin, but I don’t think her understated and cool demeanour that works so well on screen translated to theatrical stage. The rest of the cast (in particular Stephen Campbell Moore) were stellar. Kidman might have towered above them all height wise (God, the woman is tall!), but they seemed better theatrical actors than she is. The story itself is solid, but is also very predictable. I think I knew from the moment Kidman walked on stage with her icy manner and scientific obsession, that in her search for the meaning (or, rather, composition) of life she would miss life itself and then it would be too late. And then of course it was. Finally, in all frankness, not to say those times were not sexist or anything, but the woman did take a picture, not actually described or properly understood the helical structure of DNA. So, how much credit do you think she deserves? All in all, three stars.

Tastemaker

I've got to admit that the only reason I bought tickets to this show was to see Nicole Kidman. She did not disappoint!


Apart from that, the play was actually really well done. It tells the story of Dr. Rosalind Franklin's contribution to the discovery of DNA. Even though most of the play takes place in a research laboratory, the script keeps things interesting and surprisingly funny.

Tastemaker

Hottest tickets in town. This was a great play. Nicole Kidman was fantastic acting as Dr Rosalyn Franklin. The set was simple but good and the story telling was very well done. A definite recommendation, if you can still get your hands on tickets!

Tastemaker

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this play and the actors, but I was pleasantly surprised by both.The story is played out very well and it’s quite an innovative and amusing way of telling what is, ultimately, a poignant story.The performances were brilliant and Nicole Kidman shines in this production.Go see this play while you can.