Friday 28 October 2016

Nicole Kidman's return to the London stage hailed as a triumph

Published 15/09/2015 | 06:49

Nicole Kidman has returned to London's West End after 17 years to star in Photograph 51 at the Noel Coward Theatre
Nicole Kidman has returned to London's West End after 17 years to star in Photograph 51 at the Noel Coward Theatre

Almost two decades after her first appearance on the London stage provoked one critic to describe her performance as "pure theatrical Viagra", Nicole Kidman's return to the West End has been hailed "a triumph".

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The 48-year-old Oscar-winner is back treading the boards in Photograph 51, highlighting the crucial role played by scientist Rosalind Franklin in identifying the structure of DNA.

Kidman's latest performance comes 17 years after she appeared in David Hare's The Blue Room in the capital, and the Daily Telegraph's review is as complimentary now as it was then.

Referring to the paper's then theatre critic Charles Spencer's description of the Australian actress in glowing terms, Dominic Cavendish says Kidman's role is different to "the sexually charged carousel of characters she paraded before Donmar audiences all those years ago", but no less enthralling.

"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," he writes.

The Times also acknowledges the difference in subject matter between the two plays, but Ann Treneman says Kidman provides "thrills of a different kind".

"Sexy?" she asks. "This is pure theatrical DNA."

Ms Franklin's work was never formally recognised and she died from ovarian cancer in 1958, aged 37.

Francis Crick and James Watson continued her efforts, and in 1962 were awarded the Nobel Prize with her colleague Maurice Wilkins.

Franklin's character is a complex one and Kidman is successful in capturing those intricacies, says the Guardian.

"Kidman bridles at the routine sexism of academic life, rejects Wilkins's cack-handed attempts to win her over and looks nervously away when a sympathetic American colleague invites her to dinner," writes Michael Billington.

"But Kidman also conveys the ecstasy of scientific discovery: her features acquire a luminous intensity as she stares at the photograph that reveals the helix pattern."

The actress, who has starred in the blockbuster films The Others and Cold Mountain, delivers a "compelling and subtle" performance, says the Independent.

"Kidman beautifully captures the prickly defensiveness, the lonely dedication, and the suppressed emotional longings of the scientist," says Paul Taylor, who goes on to sum up the theatrical experience in one word - "Glorious".

But the play, by Anna Zeigler and performed at the Noel Coward Theatre, "strives too strenuously for a theme of victimhood", according to the Daily Mail's Quentin Letts, who is not entirely impressed by Kidman.

"This brilliant X-ray scientist could have been a little more transparent, showing a little more flesh and blood."

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