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Posts Tagged ‘Colab Factory’

Mechanical Thought’s immersive piece seeks to tell the story of the secret work at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. We arrive at the venue, posing as a radio factory, sign the official secrets act and are taken in three groups to one of the ‘huts’ to begin our work.

Britain was struggling because the German forces were communicating using cyphers, changed daily, making timely intelligence difficult. The Bletchley team, made up of brilliant people, recruited largely from universities, most mathematicians, built upon the Polish work in breaking this enigma code (something new to me). In Hut 6, under the guidance of Keith Batey, we learn how to break the code before we do so on a real message. Visits from and to the other two huts give us a glimpse of their activity, but we’re mostly in our own. Other aspects of the story are told mostly by the characters in our hut, all of whom were actually there at the time.

We learn that because they can’t talk about their work, some are mistaken, and intimidated, for being cowards. Relationships are not allowed, to avoid any infiltration and collusion, but the intensity of the time they spend together makes them more likely, and so it proves. The visit of a man from Whitehall brings distrust, and the knowledge that they have little encouragement from civil servants, having to fight for resources even though those higher up know full well the contribution they’re making. We all end up in one cramped room to hear the result of Whitehall’s investigation and the future of our characters, including Alan Turing of course.

It’s surprising how much you learn in two hours, in an environment which, based on my visit to Bletchley Park, seems authentic. A touch too much humour and flippancy risked that for me, but the biggest issue was the one you always get with immersive theatre – participants who are disengaged or even disruptive – and I’m afraid my group had some of those, but in fairness to the company, they were not encouraged and were difficult to handle.

This was my second visit to the Colab Factory in Borough, and I would certainly recommend this; hopefully you’ll get a better group than I did.

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