BAZ BAMIGBOYE: I'm doing it for my dad, says Nicole Kidman on West End return 

Hollywood star Nicole Kidman returns to the West End after a 17 year absence to play Rosalind Franklin, a pioneer of DNA research in the fifties

Hollywood star Nicole Kidman returns to the West End after a 17 year absence to play Rosalind Franklin, a pioneer of DNA research in the fifties

Nicole Kidman will return to the West End after a 17-year absence, to do a play in memory of her late father about scientists in a race to discover the ‘secret of life’.

Nicole told me she will portray Rosalind Franklin, a pioneer of DNA research in London in the Fifties, in the UK premiere of Photograph 51, a drama by American playwright Anna Ziegler.

It will be directed by Michael Grandage for an 11-week run from September 5 at the Noel Coward Theatre, where 20,000 seats — 25 per cent of the total — will be sold for £10 each, in what has to be the West End bargain of the decade.

Nicole explained that after she received Ziegler’s script from Grandage last year, she spoke to her father, Dr Antony Kidman, about it.

‘My dad was a biochemist and he knew all about Rosalind Franklin,’ the Oscar-winning star told me over the phone from Australia. ‘When I told him I was thinking about doing it, he was very excited. Then my dad passed away last September. I went: “All right, I need to do this for my father.” ‘

There were other reasons, too. ‘It’s written by a woman, and it’s about a woman that a lot of women don’t know about,’ she said. ‘And I need to do it because I’ve got to get back on stage, into that uncomfortable place of going, “I’m terrified!”’

Nicole has longed to return to the theatre since her run in The Blue Room at the Donmar Warehouse in 1998, when erstwhile Telegraph critic Charles Spencer hailed her sexually charged performance as ‘pure theatrical Viagra’.

The actress laughed when I mentioned the V word. ‘I don’t think anyone will be saying that about me any more. And it’s a very different play.’

She was about to go on when she was interrupted. ‘My little daughter has just gotten out of bed and walked in because there’s a storm outside and I can’t even repeat those words,’ she told me. Down the line, I could hear her settle the child as thunder clapped outside their Sydney apartment.

Nicole said Grandage has been on her radar for a long time. She saw his Frost/Nixon play, plus many of his other Donmar productions, and some from the Grandage Season that ended 15 months ago, with Jude Law as Henry V.

A few years ago he asked her about doing a revival, but she told him she was only interested in new work. Then, out of the blue, he sent Photograph 51, and Nicole went: ‘Eureka!’

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Kidman was last seen on stage in London in 1998, when she performed in The Blue Room at the Donmar

Kidman was last seen on stage in London in 1998, when she performed in The Blue Room at the Donmar

She said the play is not just about how Franklin took the crucial photograph that revealed the double helix structure of DNA. ‘It’s about the nature of time and grabbing the moment.’

The desire to work with Grandage increased after she joined the cast of Genius, his movie directorial debut, last year. ‘I suppose you reach a stage in your life where you go: “I just want to be around people I really enjoy” — and I enjoy him,’ she said.

At one point, she had been considering doing two plays in London, but her schedule prevented her from joining Patrick Marber’s adaptation of A Month In The Country. ‘A lot of decisions will be made around my daughters and their schooling,’ she said.

The girls, Faith and Sunday, will travel with father, Keith Urban, and Nicole’s mother Janelle, to the capital. ‘They’re all coming for when I start rehearsals in August. We won’t be taking over the town. I’ll be lying low and, hopefully, getting lost in the character.’

Grandage said Ziegler’s play looks at how Franklin was a lone woman in the male-dominated world of biochemistry. ‘They were all rushing to try to find the secret of life. They all know it’s there to be discovered, but no one knows how to discover it.’

Then Franklin takes a series of photographs and one of them — the 51st — shows the double helix. She immediately knows there’s something extraordinary in front of her, but doesn’t quite know what it is.

However, several other scientists — Maurice Wilkins, James Watson and Francis Crick — see the photograph and do know. ‘They realise exactly what it means,’ Grandage said, ‘and begin working to make the discovery.

‘Wilkins, Watson and Crick went on to win the Nobel Prize for the discovery of DNA — and Rosalind Franklin was confined to the dustbin of history. It’s only been in the past few years that a whole movement has risen up for her to take her place in history. She facilitated the discovery, and made it possible, but you wouldn’t know that.’

For the role, Nicole will be paid more than the £400 a week she got at the Donmar 17 years ago, but not a fortune — and she’s happy with that.Instead, the production has been budgeted by Grandage and his partner, James Bierman, to allow 20,000 seats to be made available across the run for £10 apiece. ‘Nicole knows all about the pricing structure, and she’s excited young people and first-time theatregoers will have access,’ Grandage said.

The play has been performed at small theatres in the U.S., but has not been on Broadway or in the UK. Grandage said he and Nicole had worked with Ziegler on a few tweaks, but the structure of the piece hadn’t been changed. Casting on the other seven roles will begin soon.

Tickets are £10, £35 and £65 with no booking fee at or call 0844 482 5141. Lines open at 9am today.


August Wilson’s searing play Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, about racial injustice in Chicago during the roaring Twenties, is being revived at the National Theatre in January.

Director Dominic Cooke has cast Sharon D. Clarke and Giles Terera in the main roles as a singer and a musician working in a down-and-out recording studio.

The play originally opened at the NT in 1989 and was part of Wilson’s cycle of plays that examined the lives of black Americans.

Sharon D. Clarke (pictured) and Giles Terera have been cast in the main roles in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom
Terera plays a musician working in a down-and-out recording studio

Sharon D. Clarke (left) and Giles Terera (right) have been cast in the main roles in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom


 Director Jamie Lloyd’s brilliant production of Stephen Sondheim’s Assassins was inexplicably overlooked at the Olivier Awards, but it has won the gong for best musical direction for Alan Williams in the newly minted Also Recognised Awards, set up by Mark Shenton and Terri Paddock to champion shows (and people) that get left out. 

Visit for all the categories. Winners were decided by online voting.

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