Rosalind Franklin. The secret of life (review)

If she were more accommodating / If she were more friendly / If she were less suspicious / If she were a man / If she were…

Among the many merits, not only theatrical, that this performance has, there is also the fact that Dr. Rosalind Franklin was returned to this academic title – Doctor of Philosophy. – that the English male scientific world, if he had lived in another place, would have changed little, stubbornly denied them in life.

World War II is not over yet, and Rosalind Franklin (Asia Argento), a Jewish-British scientist, arrives at King’s College London, a prestigious laboratory run by Maurice Wilkins (Filippo Dini). The environment is immediately hostile and not inclined to recognize the presence of such a brilliant mind in the female body. Wilkins’ demeanor ranges from infatuation to annoyance at meeting a high-profile female scientist. Rosalind tolerates male chauvinistic behavior, responding contemptuously to her colleague’s many shortcomings, from denying her a title (she received her PhD in 1945), constantly calling her “Miss”, to much more serious (albeit fairly common) data theft. , which the scientist passes off as his own, showing off during the congress in Naples. Two people enter into an uneasy relationship between the two researchers: in the role of Manzoni’s “clay pot” doctoral student Raymond Gosling (Giulio Della Monica) and, slightly, but in the end, in support of the scientist Donald Caspar (Alessandro Tedeschi).

The situation was aggravated by Wilkins’ naive (but was it really?) contact with the duo of colleagues James Watson and Francis Crick (respectively, Dario Yubatti, who struck by his resemblance to a real scientist, and Paolo Zuccari), all engaged in the same “race” to discovery of the “structure of life”, in the same studies that only “unauthorized viewing” of a photograph taken by Rosalind (the famous photograph No. 51) can put on the right track. The end result is betrayed by history, both scientific and human. A trio of male scientists received the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1962. Rosalind Franklin, suffering from cancer, died four years earlier, with no credit for what she did, but probably no interest in it. In any case, it all started with her, even if the belated recognition was never as obvious as the importance of her work deserved (and still deserves).

The plot is based on continuous time movements covering the last 7 years of the scientist’s life and reminding us of the “trial of General Umberto Nobile” in the beautiful film “The Red Curtain” (1969, Mikhail Kalatozishvili). If the cinematic Noble (played by Peter Finch) found a very weak excuse for needing a hot bath, then the three theater scientists defend their lack of ethics by blaming their colleague for not being cooperative, being too suspicious, not very friendly when instead, Rosalind , he did nothing but defend himself against an evasiveness that was as misogynistic as usual, but no less reprehensible and less serious for that.

While maintaining perfect stage control and academic rigor (never boring or engaging), the story unfolds with exceptional visual and interpretive quality, bringing back a female figure guilty only of being in love with her work, if not with the “credits” his” scientific discovery, at least a long and prolonged applause at the end of the show. The text is an Italian transposition of “Photograph 51” by American playwright Anna Ziegler, originally staged in the West End with Nicole Kidman. The Italian adaptation, directed by Filippo Dini himself, makes extensive use of stage projections and visual grafts that effectively convey an almost cinematic atmosphere to the stage boards. The scenes are very precise, with applause in particular for the spiral element. Those who are familiar with English can find on YouTube DNA The Secret of Photo 51, a short film by Gary Glassman that is about 50 minutes long. The possession of scientific and cultural knowledge is never excessive. If they then helped stop making certain mistakes, that would be best, but one cannot have everything: even science in certain areas must raise its hands and give up.

Anna Ziegler
Asia Argento
Philip Dini
and with
Julius DellaMonica
Dario Yubatti
Alessandro Tedeschi
Paul Zuccari
Scenes Laura Benzie
Costumes by Andrea Viotti
Pasquale Marie’s lights
music by Arturo Annecchino
concept and production video by Claudio Cianfoni
playwright Nicoletta Robello Bracciforti
duration 2 hours 15 minutes with intermission


I was born a computer scientist and grumpy a few decades ago, less than a year I was a journalist and have always been grumpy. I recently discovered social media (but haven’t figured it out yet)

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