This year marks 120 years since the Nobel Prizes were first awarded. There are only 57 women who have been awarded a Nobel Prize out of more than 900 recipients. One notable woman was Marie Curie, who received two Nobel prizes.
Now, a new audio drama series explores the lives of these women. Interviews From History – Nobel Women features three women whose work was key to major developments in science. Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin and Lise Meitner are interviewed by broadcast journalist, Kimberley Lim.
This combination of current interview style and characters (played by actors) who lived in earlier eras creates an immediacy and accessibility that makes their stories come to life for listeners in a new and exciting way.
The concept was developed by Towton Audio®, a new podcast platform dedicated to producing and distributing history-based drama. It was partly prompted by actor/writer Richard Hodder’s existing scripts for educational presentations through his company Spectrum Drama. These scripts were then adapted to reach a broader, more general audience.
“It was crucial that the interviews covered the personal aspects of these women’s lives as well as explaining about the critical influence they had on how science developed in ways that have had such a profound effect on all of us,” said producer, John Paul Chapple.
One of the main themes of the series was the fact that two of the women – Rosalind Franklin and Lise Meitner – did not receive Nobel prizes for specific work they had done, whereas the men with whom they worked did.
“We were keen to explore this apparent injustice on a human level,” said director Laurel Parker. “Gender politics is a big issue now but even a few years ago, it wasn’t. At the time when Lise and Rosalind were overlooked there was no outcry. How did that make them feel?”
Casting was also an important issue. The only British scientist in the series is Rosalind Franklin and the producers wanted to reflect the women’s different nationalities in the way the actors spoke.
“Happily, Maria Louis, who plays Marie Curie, is half Polish so this worked very well. And Charlie Sanderson, who plays Lise Meitner, is a master of accents. The overall combination of voices works brilliantly,” said Parker.
“They give a more real and personal feel to these characters. This was important because we were extremely focused on bringing their struggles with sexism and discrimination to the forefront without seeming preachy.”
Interviewer Kimberly Lim, who normally interviews real living people, found the drama aspect of the production very engaging.
“I think the whole concept of the project, and something that attracted me to it, were these women who are really critical to science today but we don’t really know their backgrounds, or where they came from, or how much they had to battle against just to work on what it was they were passionate about,” she said.
The series highlights the massive contribution that women have made to scientific development and points to that ongoing process through people like Professor Sarah Gilbertat Oxford University who did such vital work recently in developing the Astra Zeneca Covid vaccine.
Towton Audio® is developing further series’ of Interviews From History. It’s hoped that this unique approach to history will strike a chord with modern audiences, bringing characters from the past to life and making us understand them more as human beings than remote rather than remote figures known only for what they did rather than who they were.
To listen to the series, or find out more about the other productions available to download, visit: www.towtonaudio.com
The first 50 listeners can access a 50% discount on the Nobel Women series by using the code: FEMALEFIRST50.
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