Entertainment & Arts

Nicole Kidman praised for West End return in DNA play

Nicole Kidman in Photograph 51 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Kidman plays the British scientist Rosalind Franklin in Anna Ziegler's play

Actress Nicole Kidman has been hailed by critics as "luminous" and "compelling" in her return to the London stage in the play Photograph 51.

The Oscar-winning star plays British scientist Rosalind Franklin, the only woman involved in the discovery of DNA's double helix in 1953.

Anna Ziegler's play opened on Monday to a string of four-star reviews.

Directed by Michael Grandage, it runs at the Noel Coward Theatre until 21 November.

According to The Guardian, Kidman gives "a commanding, intelligent performance" in her first West End appearance in 17 years.

"My only complaint about Anna Ziegler's intriguing, informative 95-minute play is that it is not longer," wrote Michael Billington.

Praising Kidman's portrayal of the ecstasy of scientific discovery, Billington said her features "acquire a luminous intensity" as she stares at the now-famous photograph that reveals the DNA's helix pattern.

"It is a fine performance in which Kidman reminds us that the scientific life can be informed by private passion," the review continued.

Image copyright Johan Persson
Image caption Joshua Silver (left) plays Raymond Gosling, one of Franklin's colleagues

When Kidman appeared, briefly unclothed, in Sir David Hare's The Blue Room at the Donmar Warehouse in 1998, her performance was famously described by the Daily Telegraph's Charles Spencer as "pure theatrical Viagra".

Spencer's successor, Dominic Cavendish, was equally effusive in his review of Photograph 51, writing that "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," his four-star review continued.

"Kidman is even better communicating a life of the mind than she was all those years ago allowing the briefest glimpse possible of her body," wrote The Arts Desk's Matt Wolf.

The actress may not "strip physically", observed Mark Shenton in The Stage, "but the emotional layers are gradually exposed no less revealingly.

"Star power may have brought this play to the West End, but Nicole Kidman proves that she's worthy of the showcase."

Image copyright Johan Persson
Image caption Kidman has said the play is a way of acknowledging the work of her late biochemist father

"Kidman beautifully captures the prickly defensiveness, the lonely dedication and the suppressed emotional longings of the scientist," wrote The Independent's Paul Taylor, who praised her "compelling and subtle" performance.

Yet while Neil Norman found Kidman "never less than watchable", the Daily Express critic said the evening was "let down by Michael Grandage's spectacularly unimaginative direction".

"If ever a production was crying out for some technical flair in the design, this is it," he continued.

Writing in the Hollywood Reporter, Stephen Dalton observed that Photograph 51 "is already heavily booked for much of its three-month run".

It is, he suggested, "a testament to celebrity power more than to strong writing or great directing", calling Grandage's production "a worthy effort but a little passionless".

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