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Photograph 51

  • Theatre, West End
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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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