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  • Isabelle Hill

Review - Marie Curie

Charing Cross Theatre

Playing until 28 July 2024

Photo credit: Pamela Raith

Review {AD-PR Invite}

As the production begins, the audience is transported to early 20th-century Paris thanks to the meticulously crafted set by Rose Montgomery. Anticipation fills the air as we prepare to witness the story of a woman who defied conventions and paved the way for future generations.


Ailsa Davidson gracefully and determinedly portrays Marie Skłodowska-Curie. Her eyes sparkle with curiosity, and her mind overflows with questions that know no boundaries. Born in Poland, Marie's thirst for knowledge leads her to the Sorbonne in Paris, where she meets Pierre Curie, played by the talented Thomas Josling. Together, they embark on a scientific journey that changes history.


The musical's heart lies in the discovery of radium. The chemistry lab comes to life as Marie and Pierre experiment, their hands trembling with excitement. Prema Mehta’s clever lighting design casts the eerie glow of radium to illuminate the actors’ faces, casting shadows on the walls. They are on the brink of a Nobel Prize but face an ethical dilemma. Can radium save lives without causing great harm?


Whilst the story was successful in presenting the different areas of Marie Curie’s life to the audience, it often felt that there was too much going on and being tackled to be able to connect. In the latter half of the performance, not only do we have the questions surrounding the safety of radium but there are also significant plot points around the hospitals, factories, people with power, and the public perception of the element. For a 100-minute one act production, each of these felt as if they were struggling to have enough time to explore the depth of the real-life issues that occurred. This sometimes-confusing mix of plot points was only made more disorienting when during musical numbers, large periods of time were skipped through.


The ensemble brings the narrative to life; playing factory workers whose bodies gradually succumb to radium's invisible effects. Their haunting voices reflect the sacrifices made for progress. Chrissie Bhima, as Anne Kowalska, adds depth as a friend, confidante, and a reflection of society's biases against women in science.


Director Sarah Meadows orchestrates this blend of science and emotion, whilst Emma Fraser's musical direction is notable in adding to this production; infusing urgency and tenderness into the score. Although these numbers have been translated and re–arranged for the English language, they are triumphant in portraying the emotion on stage and the perception of scientific progress during the time period.


The set transitions many times throughout the production, which sometimes felt overwhelming, but was detailed, impressive and helped the audience feel transported to 20th-century Paris. However, the choreography felt random at times and took away from the thoughtful and emotional plot.


Marie Curie: The Musical transcends the stage, exploring themes that resonate beyond the theatre; the pursuit of knowledge, the cost of progress, and the resilience of the human spirit. Whilst it was difficult to connect and be fully immersed in the performance, it was an enjoyable watch to learn about the legacy of Marie Curie.


Book & Lyrics: Seeun Choun

Director: Sarah Meadows

Musical Director: Emma Fraser

Set & Costume Designer: Rose Montgomery

Lighting Designer: Prema Mehta

Choreographer: Joanna Goodwin

Sound Designer: Andrew Johnson 

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