Tardis in the foyer of Riverside Studios

Tonight’s First Night of a new version of Alan Turing - A Musical Biography was graced by a Tardis in the foyer of the reconstructed Riverside Studios. The foyer rather overstates the site’s heritage as the studios are entirely new.
Alan Turing’s story is fantastic as well as horrific, it should be shouted loud and proud: Alan Turing is both of massive interest as a seminal computer scientist, hero of the secret war and as a gay martyr who was sentenced to chemical castration following conviction for cottaging.
The prose text rings true, I hear the precise analytical mind of the mathematician. I’m not so sure about the musical book which seeks to explore thoughts using a post-Sondheim musical idiom. The music works well for me but needs fewer sung words.
A tour-de-force by both actors and the technical team; a killer apple also features. I really warmed to Joe Bishop’s portrayal of Alan Turing as a young man, his mini-lecture on the Fibonacci Series was a masterpiece. He’s clean-shaven, as was Alan Turing. Zara Cooke plays a number of roles and is convincing - the current production has done away with the narrator used previously; that’s tough on the actors but keeps momentum. It seems the tale they tell is closer to historical accuracy than the recent Hollywood movie.

I’ve not seen moving lights and LED colour changing used so effectively in a small theatre presentation before, it was a revelation to see it done well. The sound cues played seamlessly, though to my ears the amplification was too loud on the vocals and the actors hitting their head-mics is distracting.
Overall there was understanding of Alan Turing being different but sadly little impression of what must have been his great thrills and joy as a research mathematician and successful code breaker.
Unfortunately not a sell-out but the weather and tube strike can’t have helped, although that is now over. This is the fourth revision of the work. There are limits to what can be done with two actors. They work hard, the material certainly is there and I wish them well but I hope there’s yet another version somewhere out there waiting to be produced that will take this amazing story to a wider public still, and with historical accuracy.

Alan Turing - Joe Bishop
Andrea, etc - Zara Cooke

Director: Jane Miles
Composer: Joel Goodman
Musical Director: Jan Osborne
Playwright: Joan Greening
Senior Technician: Charlie Hazlem
Early Mornings Productions

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