Previewed 5 September 2015, Opened 14 September 2015, Closed 21 November 2015 at the Noel Coward Theatre in London
Nicole Kidman makes her eagerly awaited return to the West End stage in Anna Ziegler's new play Photograph 51 in London for a strictly limited season.
Does Rosalind Franklin know how precious her photograph is? In the race to unlock the secret life it could be the one to hold the key. With rival scientists looking everywhere for the answer, who will be the first to see it and more importantly, understand it? Anna Ziegler's extraordinary play looks at the woman who cracked DNA and asks what is sacrificed in the pursuit of science, love and a place in history. "The instant I saw the photograph my mouth fell open and my pulse began to race."
Based on true events that took place during the early 1950s, Anna Ziegler's play wom the 2008 STAGE International Competition for the best script about science and technology.
This production stars Nicole Kidman as 'Rosalind Franklin'. It is directed by Michael Grandage with designs by Christopher Oram and music and sound by Adam Cork.
This production marks Nicole Kidman much anticipated return to the London stage following her West End debut in David Hare's two-hander The Blue Room in which she played opposite Iain Glen. Adapted from Schnitzler, The Blue Room was directed by Sam Mendes at the Donmar Warehouse where it enjoyed a sell-out run during September and October 1998.
When this production opened here at the Noel Coward Theatre in September 2015, Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail commented that "science is not easy to portray on stage but Michael Grandageís fluent direction and Nicole Kidmanís stellar control make Photograph 51 Ė a play about microscopic images of DNA Ė a gripping, if slightly frosty affair... Its picture is clear, detailed, ambitious; a little stark and negative in places, too, though." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times thought "it's about time there was a play about Rosalind Franklin; I remember thinking so when the Royal Shakespeare Company premiered Oppenheimer early this year . That drama made it to the West End on its own merits; I wonder whether, without the megastar casting of Nicole Kidman, Anna Ziegler's 2010 play Photograph 51 would have done likewise" explaing how "the final quarter-hour or so of the 90-minute piece becomes increasingly glib and self-serving." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard said that "Nicole Kidman returns to the London stage, 17 years on from her sensational West End debut, with a luminous performance as Rosalind Franklin, a research chemist who played a vital role in identifying the structure of DNA.... Anna Ziegler writes with wit and tenderness about flawed and brilliant individuals.... This isnít an obvious star vehicle, and thereís certainly plenty for those around Kidman to get their teeth into in Michael Grandageís smartly paced production." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph explained that, "in taking us to the heart of her story, which itself sits at the centre of one of the most significant discoveries of all time - the structure of DNA - Kidman displays once again the power to hold us in thrall. Although her kit is Fifties demure, the caboodle of her nuanced performance is the stuff of intoxication... A triumph." Neil Norman in the Daily Express wrote that, "enticing as the prospect is, Kidman is now a long way from the 'theatrical viagra' of The Blue Room, 15 years ago... But she is never less than watchable... What might have been a fascinating and enthralling evening is let down by Michael Grandage's spectacularly unimaginative direction... But it is a mildly disappointing night." Michael Billington in the Guardian described how Nicole Kidman gives "Itís a commanding, intelligent performance and my only complaint about Anna Zieglerís intriguing, informative 95-minute play is that it is not longer... It is a fascinating story and Kidmanís performance captures the complexities in Franklinís character." Paul Taylor in the Independent highlighted "credit to Nicole Kidman for choosing such an unflashy, deeply serious-minded role for her quietly triumphant return to the London stage. Anna Ziegler's engrossing play focuses on the brilliant British scientist, Rosalind Franklin, who has become iconic as the woman never given due recognition for her pivotal contribution to the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA... Michael Grandage's superb production expertly balances its energies as detective thriller and combative speculation... Glorious." Ann Treneman in the Times said: "Here Michael Grandage, the director, has created something special and authentic... he and Anna Ziegler strip the story back to basics... It is not the perfect play. The penultimate bit in particular asks for a rewrite. Yet Nicole Kidman is superb. Sexy? This is pure theatrical DNA."
Michael Grandage's West End stage directing credits include Dawn French in 30 Million Minutes which will be at the Vaudeville Theatre in November 2015 following a major sell-out tour during 2014. His other directing credits include John Logan's Peter and Alice starring Judi Dench and Ben Whishaw at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2013, Shakespeare's Twelfth Night with Derek Jacobi at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2008, Anton Chekhov's Ivanov starring Kenneth Branagh at the Wyndham's Theatre in 2008, Friedrich Schiller's Don Carlos starring Derek Jacobi at the Gielgud Theatre in 2005 and Tennesse Williams' Suddenly Last Summer starring Dame Diana Rigg at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2004.
"Rosalind Franklin was treated with condescension by the male establishment... Her uncompromising attitude did little to help. She refused to elicit sympathy from her colleagues, and it is to Nicole Kidman's credit that she refuses to elicit it from her audience. Like her character, she focuses on the intellectual, which makes her two moments of self-revelation all the more powerful. Unlike her heroine, who worked as both a theoretical and applied scientist, Anna Ziegler's approach is primarily theoretical. She charts the rigorous research process but, in contrast to Tom Morton-Smith's glorious Oppenheimer, seen earlier this year, she fails to convey the excitement of discovery." The Sunday Express
"Nicole Kidman is barely off stage in this 90-minute production of scientist Rosalind Franklin and the discovery of DNA. Kidman brings to life the determination of Franklin who as a woman in the 1950s made huge scientific breakthroughs in London before having her work liberated by more adventurous male scientists. It's a fascinating telling where the characters, the production and Kidman hook you and the audience feel genuine sadness at the unhappy ending to this remarkable story, where Franklin dies aged 37 from ovarian cancer brought on by the X-ray equipment used for photographing the famous double-helix." The Sunday Mirror
"It tells an exciting story, but there is a chilliness at its heart, and Nicole Kidman's Franklin is the chilliest of the lot. This, at least, might be accurate. She was, by all accounts, a prickly character... Anna Ziegler's play does capture the excitement and passion of scientific discovery well, though, and is clever in its suggestion that it was almost because poor Miss Franklin was so uptight and diligent, hard-working and hopelessly unimaginative, that she failed to make the leaps and take the gambles of all the hearty, boisterous, confident male scientists around her... Oddly, though, if Kidman is meant as the star of the show, and Franklin is at the heart of the story, her death from ovarian cancer, and the sense of melancholy 'failure' that hangs over her, is never as compelling as the work of the eager, competitive, sometimes downright ruthless male scientists around her." The Sunday Times
"So does Nicole Kidman's second appearance on the London stage deliver a repeat shot of 'theatrical Viagra'? Seventeen years after The Blue Room, a very different performance - as the scientist Rosalind Franklin, the focused, demure woman who took the photograph that prompted the discovery of the doublehelix structure of DNA - is both more stimulating and more penetrating. And, in spite of being buttoned up and bespectacled in a frumpy frock instead of torn fishnets, she is genuinely sexy. Michael Grandage stages American Anna Ziegler's play on Christopher Oram's set of grey ruins - what remains of the heavily bombed King's College, London in the Fifties... The play lacks drama but it's a good story, with Kidman, like Franklin finally, the undisputed star." THe Mail on Sunday
Photograph 51 in London at the Noel Coward Theatre with previewed from 5 September 2015, opened on 14 September 2015 and closed on 21 November 2015.