Reviewer: Jon Wainwright
More spoken word than drama, this show tells of that “rare breed of women” who overcome discrimination and the intrinsic difficulties of their chosen field to win a Nobel Prize. As we enter, the three performers catch us off guard by introducing themselves, shaking hands and asking how we heard about the show and so on. Don’t they realize that some of us may beEnglish, and rather taken aback by such openness? We forgive their friendliness upon discovering that they’re Americans, and on reflecting that openness is a virtue in science: hold nothing back, and work for the good of the world and not for the self.
The lights stay up as Jade Hobbs, Melissa Schenterand Kimberly Wilson launch into their stories about some very remarkable women. Naturally, since this is all about women in science, there’s a bearded man in the corner playing a ukelele. (Michael Phillips is the Artistic Director of Portal Theatre and his musical accompaniment is a perfect balance for the narrative, enhancing the performance and setting a subtle emotional tone.)
There are some startling figures upfront: out of the 566 individual Nobel Prize winners in the sciences, only 15 have been women, and few of us have heard of any of them beside Marie Curie. This show focuses on four of these relatively unsung heroines: Rosalyn Yalow, Rita Levi-Montalcini, Rosalind Franklin and Gertrude Elion (it’s widely assumed that Franklin would have won the prize along with Crick and Watson had she not died tragically young).
These are all women who had to work twice as hard as their male counterparts, and their lives are full of incident and achievement. Particularly moving is the testimony of one dying AIDS patient, before the advent of anti-retroviral drugs: “Thank you, not for me, for the others”. He’s thanking Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, who made the breakthrough that would come too late for him but would save countless other lives.
Don’t lock up your daughters, or lock them out of science – take them to see this show.
Runs until24th Aug