“One of the finest acting performances I have ever seen at the Fringe”
In a year that has seen Alan Turing receive an official royal pardon and a blockbuster film about his achievements, it seems somewhat surprising that there aren’t more shows at this year’s Fringe about him. However, this work from Welsh company Scriptography Productions is absolutely sensational, and features on of the finest acting performances I have ever seen on the Fringe.
The play starts with Turing as a schoolboy, and goes on to show his first love, his work at Bletchley, and the relationship that would see him found guilty of gross indecency. It’s certainly not afraid to be bold, and at times brutal, focussing primarily on Turing’s sexual identity and personal life.
Turing himself is played by Gwydion Rhys, who brings so much emotional depth, softness and realism to this disturbed character that I genuinely wanted to jump on stage and stand in the way of him being chemically castrated in the play’s final scene. It’s a controlled and commanding performance without ever being over the top, and well worthy of a Fringe award. The supporting cast of Rick Yale, Francois Pandolfo and Robert Harper, who between them play 14 characters, also deliver highly commendable performances.
The production moves at quite a fast pace, but it’s the moments of stillness and sensitivity, which to me were the most powerful. In particular, watching Turing’s mind whir as he develops his theory for the first computer, and his damning confession and inability to lie while in the witness box are utterly compelling.
While I wasn’t 100% convinced by snippets of the high energy quiz show scattered throughout, which posed questions to reflect theories developed by Turing, these sections did serve as a stark Brechtian contrast and awakening to his manipulation and ultimate downfall. I would have liked to have seen a closer integration between these sections and the genuine interrogation he received in the courtroom to really complete the circle of that idea.
It was also disappointing for me that this show was only an hour long, I could easily have stayed engaged for two, and would have welcomed more exploration into some of the other themes – gender identity, machines vs humans, and more cultural context of the period of his life. In saying that, for the length it was, I think it was written and structured excellently, with an engrossing narrative and compelling action. This show is a must-see.
Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 17 August)
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