Sunday 6 April 2014

An Extraordinary Light - review of world premiere

This review may whet your appetite for the performances scheduled over the first few days of the Buxton Fringe.
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Review: An Extraordinary Light - Smiths Restaurant, Eccles
By Andrew Nevill

Writer / Director Rob Johnston’s latest play received its World Premiere over at Smiths Restaurant as part of its Bite Size Theatre, before going on tour culminating in a run at the Edinburgh Fringe.
I wanted to see this as I’ve really enjoyed Rob’s previous plays and the subject of this one particularly appealed to me.

It’s the true story of scientist Rosalind Franklin whose early experimental work on DNA enabled Francis Crick & James Watson to make the leap that unlocked the double helix. This contribution was unrecognised during her own life and – because it can’t be awarded posthumously - she was excluded from the Nobel Prize they went on to receive.

This was a one-woman show - Rosalind’s show - as she told her story directly to the audience, giving us an insight into the character and achievements of this remarkable, yet often overlooked, figure.

Katherine Godfrey as Rosalind gave a contained, controlled performance, perfectly capturing Franklin’s logical and analytical scientist – but shot through with a dry wit and deadpan humour that made an otherwise prickly character likeable.

This was maintained throughout the piece so that Rosalind’s one moment of anger at being overlooked was all the more palpable when it came. Always engaging, Godfrey held the audience’s attention throughout the piece.

The set was simple but integral to the play, a scientist’s office with desk, microscope, and Bakelite phone and a model of the DNA double helix. The excellent use of the set and various props is worth a mention. The simple costume of white blouse, black skirt and the obligatory lab coat screamed scientist.

I was able to chat to Rob after the play and he said that he’d tried to play fair with History. Indeed during the play, Franklin admits that Crick & Watson were geniuses. However, this is drama and it’s from Rosalind’s viewpoint so there was always going to a little bias.

Raising themes such as sexism and the virtues of pure analysis versus a little intuitive thinking, the play provoked an enthusiastic after-show discussion amongst the audience – in which Rob and Katherine happily participated ……… and any play that leaves you talking about it must be a considered a success.

In this case, a resounding one. 

Buxton Fringe

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