Behind the Scenes

Photograph 51

actors on stage dressed in lab coats

“The instant I saw the photograph my mouth fell open and my pulse began to race.”

About the work


Welcome to the Michael Grandage Company’s production of Photograph 51 by Anna Ziegler

Does Rosalind Franklin know how precious her photograph is? In the race to unlock the secret of life it could be the one to hold the key. With rival scientists looking everywhere for the answer, who will be first to see it and, more importantly, understand it? 

Anna Ziegler’s extraordinary play looks at the woman who cracked DNA and asks what is sacrificed in the pursuit of science, love and a place in history.

“I read Photograph 51 and liked it instantly. Theatrically, it was constructed rather like a thriller. It’s a true and terrible story of injustice, in which this woman scientist, Rosalind Franklin, who was operating entirely in a man’s world, found herself competing in a race to discover “the secret of life”. 

Nobody knew how DNA was constructed and she took a series of X-ray photographs, of which number 51 was the clearest, and it enabled scientists to see how the structure of DNA worked for the first time. The photograph she took showed DNA to be made up of a double helix and it enabled two scientists in particular, Francis Crick and James Watson, to build a model based on that information. Both men went on to win the Nobel Prize.

Rosalind Franklin died young but her research and her photographs are now believed to have played a significant part in the discovery. It’s thrilling to tell her story on stage for the first time.”

Michael Grandage, Artistic Director, MGC

England, 1951.

After the devastation of World War II, amidst the rubble of cleared bombsites, scientists at the country’s leading universities attempt to discover the building blocks of life itself: DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid). At King’s College in London, a determined and dedicated doctor specialising in X-Ray Crystallography – Rosalind Franklin – has just joined the staff, working closely with Maurice Wilkins. 

But it is a difficult relationship from the start. Rosalind, a serious-minded and independent professional, finds the reserved and rather pompous Maurice infuriating, particularly in his reluctance to recognise her credentials. He, in turn, finds her forthright manner combative, only exacerbating his natural awkwardness around women. The pair struggle to forge an alliance and share their findings, with Rosalind feeling increasingly isolated – a lone woman in a man’s world.

Meanwhile at Cambridge University, Maurice’s old university friend and fellow scientist, Francis Crick, has teamed up with an ambitious and brash young doctor, James Watson. Together they have joined the race to unlock the secret of life, but they can’t do it alone… They need Rosalind’s expertise, as demonstrated in her photographs, to prove their hypothesis.

Who will find and recognise the vital piece of evidence needed to win the race? And at what price, both professional and personal, will victory come?

DirectorMichael Grandage
Set & Costume DesignerChristopher Oram
Lighting DesignerNeil Austin
Composer & Sound Designer Adam Cork
Casting DirectorAnne McNulty CDG
Wig & Hair DesignerChristine Blundell
Production ManagerPatrick Molony
Associate Production ManagerKate West
Company Stage ManagerHoward Jepson
Deputy Stage ManagerSharon Hobden
Assistant Stage ManagerGeorgia Bird
Dialect Coach to Ms KidmanSandra Frieze
Voice CoachZabarjad Salam
Props SupervisorCelia Strainge
Costume SupervisorAnna Josephs
Head of WardrobeCharlotte Stidwell
Head of Wigs & Make-UpSophie Finch
Deputy Head of WardrobeAmanda Wilde
Associate DirectorJohn Haidar
Associate Set & Costume DesignerLee Newby

Rehearsal Diary


Nicole Kidman Photograph 51 interview

Costume Gallery

Production Photography

Behind the Scenes