No Belles

Of 566 scientists to win the Nobel Prize, only 15 have been women. How many women on this list can you name?

No Belles is a well-pitched piece of theatre that’s informative, and, perhaps more importantly, inspiring.

When the members of Portal Theatre realised they didn’t know a single one of them except Marie Curie, they began researching women in science – those honoured with the Nobel and those overlooked – and from this developed No Belles.

No Belles is a spoken-word tribute to the women of science. It presents as part poetry, part storytelling, part performative lecture. It’s understated, honest, and a real treat.

Performers Melissa Schenter, Jade Hobbs, and Kimberly Wilson move smoothly from story to story, accompanied by ukulele music. They use no set and the presentation style is simple and effective, shifting from monologues to group work, and even to song. We hear the story of Rita Levi-Montalcini, who, while in hiding during World War II, built her own laboratory and tricked nearby farmers into giving her eggs (fertilised eggs, no less) so she could continue her research. We hear the stories of Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, the woman who discovered HIV and continues to campaign to prevent and treat HIV and AIDS in developing countries, and of Rosalind Franklin, who received neither a Nobel nor credit for her work on DNA. The DNA race is explained to us using sock puppets, which gets laughs, but moments later, as more of the story unfolds, we are genuinely moved. We also learn of Gertrude Bell Elion, Rosalyn Yalow and Marie Curie.

As promised by Portal Theatre, we hear stories that are important. Schenter, Hobbs, and Wilson engage well with the audience. As they tell the stories of these landmark scientists, it’s clear that the actors connect personally. No Belles is a well-pitched piece of theatre that’s informative, and, perhaps more importantly, inspiring. It has important stories to tell and resonates well after you have left the theatre. 

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The Blurb

In 2013, the New York Times began an obituary: ‘she made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children’. Never mind that she was also a well respected rocket scientist. The story of women in science is a story of broken barriers, shifting social attitudes and groundbreaking discoveries. No Belles weaves together moving stories of some of the most remarkable women to don a lab coat. Women who, with persistence and determination, changed the face of science.