Photo 51

Combine the Tellytubbies with a political agenda and you wouldn’t be too far off this exuberant adaption of the story of the double-helix hypothesis. Combining luscious luminous juggling and physical theatre with visual and textual quotations from the letters and publications of the scientists involved, this company of Exeter youth are certainly talent to watch out for at future Fringes. Rosalind Franklin’s x-ray photo number 51 was instrumental in the work on the structure of DNA going on at King’s London in the 1950s, however her work went uncredited by the male scientists in her department and Franklin sank into obscurity. Photo 51 tells her story with a view to exploring the people and social issues behind the science as formative influences on the nature and content of our modern theories.The technically-accomplished music and sound design by Christopher Bosher is a highlight, and undoubtedly the single biggest contributor to the success of the production. Combining concrete and acoustic sounds for fierce emotional effects throughout, the music responds to the action on stage as well as setting the agenda for much of the stage-time. The ensemble are universally strong in their roles as child-like laboratory scientists, passing characters, chalk boards and lights from actor and actor seamlessly. The magnetic Martha Crawford’s noises of surprise and delight never fail to keep up the energy as the story shifts once more through narrative to spectacle. Given the power of the mime acting throughout, it is perhaps inevitable that the character-acting segments are overdone.In concept and execution, this is experimental theatre at its best: newcomers searching at the edge of the tradition. Their calculatedly-vague use of the scientific and historical tradition is sure to charm audiences, though longer shows in this style would run the risk of monotony.

Reviews by James T. Harding

Pleasance Courtyard

Creatives

★★
Bedlam Theatre

The Duck Pond

★★★★★

The Blurb

Delve into a wonderland where lab coats intertwine and cells burst with light and discover the story of the forgotten genius Rosalind Franklin. Compelling original music and a talented ensemble unravel the mysterious beauty of the double helix.