Culture Street

Theatre

Nicole Kidman in Photograph 51

On October 26, 2015

By Sophia Whitfield

After a mere three months of being back in London I finally made it to the theatre. It was such a treat to see Nicole Kidman in Photograph 51. It is up there with my top three plays.

Back in 2011 I saw Kevin Spacey in Richard III at the Star in Sydney. I took my then 12-year-old son with me. The night before the performance I was warned that it would be two hours before the first interval. I went with trepidation to the theatre hoping my son would go the distance (the performance started at 8pm). Kevin Spacey walked onto stage and I was mesmerised and so was my son. Every few minutes a little voice would whisper in my ear – he’s in Doctor Who and then a couple of minutes later – she’s in Doctor Who. He was quite fascinated by the fact that all the actors he had seen in Doctor Who were actually real. The performance was unforgettable and we have often talked about the brilliance of Kevin Spacey and the many Doctor Who actors.

In December 2013 I took one of my daughters to see Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Rafe Spall on Broadway in Harold Pinter’s 1978 drama Betrayal. The theatre was small; we were not able to simply stand up to let guests into their sets in our row we had to exit the entire row to allow guests to move into their seats. We sat next to an elderly American couple who chatted to us about their love of the theatre.

The play began and to our surprise Daniel Craig was applauded simply for walking onto the stage (it must be an American thing). My daughter and I were gripped for the entire performance. At the end the American next to us said Daniel Craig was excellent but the play was stupid, stupid (pronounced stoooopid). Apparently a happily ever after was necessary to complete his night out. Nevertheless, for us it was the standout event of our trip.

Photograph 51 is definitely up there with these two fabulously memorable plays. Nicole Kidman was not applauded for simply walking onto stage (this is England, after all). West End audiences would rather wait until the end to see if the actors truly deserve to be applauded. In fact this audience thought they were so deserving that at the end of the performance the cast received a standing ovation.
The extraordinary play, written by Anna Ziegler, centres on Dr Rosalind Franklin, the woman who cracked DNA. The play asks what is sacrificed in the pursuit of science, love and a place in history. Kidman plays Franklin with the coolness necessary for a woman who focused on her work and kept her feelings at arm’s length from those around her.

Being back in London we are spoiled for theatre. There is so much to see. Yesterday, walking through the wall of people in Leicester Square it brought back many memories. It’s good to be home.

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