Back when I was roaming the far reaches of New South Wales as Simmo in David Williamson’s The Removalists, one of my lines that always caused more mirth than it deserved was “DNA Mate!” Having beaten up and killed Kenny, it was my way of pointing out to Ross how far up the smelly creek we were. Ever since, it has become a bit of a Gaz catchphase.
Since uttering those inspiring words I have learned what DNA is and why it’s so important. What I didn’t know was how important photograph 51 was in the eventual completed work by Watson & Crick. Photograph 51 was taken by Dr Rosalind Franklin.
Well, now I know and I have Nicole Kidman to thank for it. She is currently playing Dr Franklin in Photograph 51.
14 years ago, we couldn’t get tickets to the Blue Room which Nicole was in at the Donmar. Sold out and raved about; being Australian couldn’t even get us tickets. Because of that, we booked tickets for Photograph 51 as soon as it was advertised. And tonight, finally, we went.
It was at the Noel Coward theatre, which is where I saw Peter & Alice a few years ago. A lovely theatre…as long as you get an aisle seat.
The theatre was full with the standing room all taken as well. In fact a young woman asked Mirinda to mind a Standing Room space (they’re limited to three per side of the stalls auditorium) while she went off to either go to the loo or look for better standing room spaces elsewhere. This is because Mirinda was standing up, waiting for the people in our row to arrive and fill the empty seats next to us. Which is what we always do.
As for the play…I have to agree with the reviewer I heard on Front Row who claimed that the subject is a bit thin to base an entire play on although Mirinda disagrees with me. That aside, I thought the acting was all excellent, especially Nicole who played Dr Franklin with a measured and driven intensity that smacked of the truth.
A remarkable, if somewhat joyless scientist, Dr Franklin related a story from her past when she lined up leaves and took photographs with her father’s camera. This led her to realise that cells were uniform and photography could reveal things usually overlooked. I have no idea if this is apocryphal or not but it started the play off nicely.
The play then follows Dr Franklin and her time at King’s College, London, working in the still bombed out remains of the Luftwaffe bombing raids of WW2. The action takes place in the very early 1950s. Which brings up the set. I loved the set. Bombed out remains indeed. It looked extraordinarily real, cold, damp and miserable.
It is here that we meet Dr Maurice Wilkins (Stephen Campbell-Moore) a relic of the Establishment who refuses to call Dr Franklin ‘Dr’ while insisting that he is.
Now, I’m not sure who in Stephen’s circle of family and friends is a Big Bang Theory fan (or if he is) but one of them clearly told him he should model Wilkins on Leonard Hofstadter. He did this brilliantly but, I thought, a bit cheaply. Leonard is a character not a real person. It would be like portraying a Homer Simpson-like person exactly like Homer. Where’s the skill in doing something that has already been done?
As I typed that it suddenly occurred to me that Leonard’s character could actually be based on Dr Maurice Wilkins, in which case I take it all back.
The rest of the cast were very good and the whole play was a beautiful ensemble piece. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I feel I need to add that if Dr James Watson was as obnoxious as he was played by Will Attenborough then he was a most unpleasant fellow indeed.