Nicole Kidman returned to the West End after seventeen years absence in Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51 at the Noel Coward Theatre on Saturday night. Directed by Michael Grandage, it revolves around the story of molecular biologist Roselind Franklin and one of the twentieth century’s greatest achievements, the discovery of the DNA double helix or what scientists called ‘the secret of life.’ Central to the narrative is ‘Photo 51’, the name given to an x-ray image taken by one of Franklin’s researchers at King’s College in London, which revealed the double helix shape of deoxyribonucleic acid, a crucial starting point for research by Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins who identified how DNA was structured. All three men received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1962, four years after Franklin’s death of overian cancer at the age of 37. Debate about the amount of credit due to her still exists, but in his memoirs, Watson stated that ‘Photo 51’ provided the vital clue to the double helix. Many believe she should have been posthumously honoured by the Nobel Committee.
After receiving a standing ovation at the conclusion of Saturday night’s opening performance, Nicole graciously meet the huge throng waiting at the stage door barriers and did her best to sign and pose for more than 51 photographs as possible. Nicole’s signature probably has 51 plus variations. The common denominator is the downstroke of the first capital ‘N’ with a curl at it’s base, the rest can resemble multiple helixes, where sometimes you can make out a her name in various calligraphic contortions or a flourished line, as I got on this sketch. A glance around others who managed to get her graph confirmed this. Not one of them, apart from the said “N” looked the same. I guess you could say that everyone is truly original. Given the situation and the fact that she was only signing show material, I was pleased with the result.