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  • Writer's pictureSarah

Review of Alan Turing - A Musical Biography

Man sitting at a desk with a manual typewriter
Joe Bishop as the genius Alan Turing. Photo credit Clive Holland

This production at the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith promised to take us on a musical journey through the extraordinary life of Alan Turing, the genius whose code breaking brain saved approximately fourteen million lives in WW2 through the cracking of the German Enigma machine. This incredible work earned Alan an OBE.


Alan Turing was a gay man, who was prosecuted for 'gross indency' and accepted a punishment of chemical castration rather than a prison sentence. He later took his life through eating a posioned apple - the subject of a childhood fascination with Sleeping beauty. He was post- humously given a Royal pardon in 2013.


This shocking treatment by the establishment ought to have left the audience at this production angry and outraged, but instead left me pretty unmoved. I think that the musical biography didn't really delve into Alan Turing's life as a mostly closeted gay man, and the pain that would have caused. There was more emphasis on his engagement to his friend and fellow mathematician Joan Clarke, and his desire to create a chess playing computer.


The musical biography is presented in chronological order, starting with Alan as a boy eating an apple before bed, and ending with him eating the posioned apple, but without the appearance of a charming prince to bring him back from the dead.


Directed by Jane Miles, with music by Joel Goodman and Jan Osborne, book by Joan Greening, lighting design by Rob Dyer, and starring Joe Bishop as ‘Alan Turing’ and Zara Cooke as multiple roles including Joan Clarke. The singing was good, in a modern discordant way.


This OffFest award-nominated show was a sold-out hit at the 2022 Edinburgh Fringe, where it garnered great critical acclaim.  It's now in its fourth iteration, unfortunately, it still felt like an 'above the pub' production, better suited to a more intimate setting. The lighting was baffling, the stage was often so dark it was hard to see Joe Bishops and Zara Cooke's faces, as was the use of a smoke machine billowing out dark clouds of smoke pretty constantly.

 

I wanted to love my first show of 2024, but this didn't live up to its promise. It's an amazing story and with some further tweaks could yet be a great production.


We did like the venue, it felt like a proper community venue and was busy for a Tuedsay evening when we went. The small plates of food (3 between the 2 of us) were very nice.


When: Now until 27th January 2024



Riverside Studios

101 Queen Caroline Street

Hammersmith

London

W6 9BN



Telephone: 020 8237 1010




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