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Posts Tagged ‘Dominic Brennan’

The life of code-breaker Alan Turing is an unlikely subject for a musical, but then again so were the Ipswich prostitute murders! Like London Road, this is more a play with music than a musical (though not sung verbatim interviews in this case). What they also share is how successful they tell their story, and in this case it also makes you reappraise a man’s life.

Starting as Turing goes to Sherborne School, we zip through school and university days and on to Bletchley Park and his huge contribution to the second world war. Moving on into his post-war research & teaching career in Manchester, you realise this is no simple code-breaker, but a scientific colossus whose theories were extraordinary prophetic. Sadly, we see him brought down by the naive confession of a private act that would today be a complete non-event. A genius cut down in his prime.

You do learn an extraordinary amount in 90 minutes, partly because the music propels and illuminates the narrative. They aren’t songs you could play out of context, but they are tuneful and very listenable with live keyboard and recorded accompaniment and some added live strings from cast members. The staging is simple but superbly effective, with projections and two on-stage racks of props enabling scenes to be created swiftly, and a giant document patchwork used to great effect.

Richard Delaney is excellent as Turing, completely plausible as schoolboy & undergraduate through twenty and thirty something. They are lucky to have someone as talented as Judith Paris to play Alan’s mother, which she does with great sensitivity. All other roles are played brilliantly by just five actors and it often seems there are many more than seven on stage.

Though I liked Hugh Whitmore’s play about Turing, with Derek Jacobi leading (27 years ago now and surely overdue for revival), I think I learnt more about his life from this show, which seemed to me to really get under the skin and capture the essence of the man, the monumental achievements, the sadness of his personal life and the waste that his premature death was.

I really do hope we haven’t seen the last of this little gem of a show. Huge congratulations to The New Diorama and it director David Byrne (responsible for the book, lyrics & direction) composer / lyricist Dominic Brennan and young theatre company PIT. There was a real bonus on the evening I went, with a man from Bletchley Park demonstrating an actual Enigma machine in the foyer!

Let’s hope it comes back so more people can see it.

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