Photograph 51

A first staging outside the capital for a very Cambridge tale

Codebreaking may conjure images of espionage, but the biggest breakthrough in the last century was very much embedded in Cambridge’s own DNA.

Rosalind Franklin’s often-overlooked role in the discovery of the structure of DNA – with James Watson and Francis Crick, together with Maurice Wilkins, the winners of the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1962 – is at the heart of Photograph 51, a play that comes to the ADC Theatre from 9 to 13 April.

It’s a fast-paced and ultimately moving tale about ambition and legacy. Does Rosalind realise she holds the key to the biggest scientific breakthrough of the 20th century? And what kept her out of the history books?


"What kept her out of the history books?"


Franklin studied at Newnham College in the 1940s, before going on to work with Wilkins at King’s College, London, where they used X-ray diffraction to study DNA. Their findings were used by Crick and Watson, who worked at Cambridge University, in their own research, which led to a model that explained how DNA replicates and how hereditary information is coded within it.

The pair famously celebrated in The Eagle pub 66 years ago. Alongside Wilkins, they received the award nine years after the discovery, but Franklin did not receive the award. In 2017, a Franklin supporter ‘vandalised’ the blue plaque outside the pub by adding Rosalind’s name to it.

It is only the second time the play has been performed in the UK. The first was four years ago, when it starred Nicole Kidman in the West End, with former Cambridge University student and frequent ADC performer Will Attenborough as James Watson.

Tickets are £8 to £14.

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