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To Kill A Machine, King’s Head Theatre, review: ‘Alan Turing’s untold story doesn’t need telling’

PUBLISHED: 12:00 13 April 2016

To Kill a Machine, a new full length play written by Welsh writer Catrin Fflur Huws about the life of Alan Turing.

 Picture: Keith Morris

To Kill a Machine, a new full length play written by Welsh writer Catrin Fflur Huws about the life of Alan Turing. Picture: Keith Morris

©keith morris 2015

This 70-minute drama is billed as the untold story of Alan Turing, one of the greatest mathematicians and thinkers that this country has yet produced. He invented computer science – arguably the most important technological driver of the 20th century.

He was cruelly persecuted for his sexuality by the country he served so well during the Second World War. Some believe that his cryptographic work, leading the project to crack the Nazi’s Enigma Machine, shortened the war by a year and saved millions of lives. Posthumously worldwide honours have been showered on him and he has been formally pardoned.

A transfer from the Edinburgh Festival, this is set on what looks like an exploded control deck of the Tardis. Alan is found reclining under the tree-like central structure, beneath a spot-lit green apple – a homage to Newton or a reference to his likely suicide eating a poisoned apple?

Then the Game begins – the driving narrative is some sort of tacky game show. We follow Turing’s life from his early days as an odd-ball loner, happier times at Cambridge, work at Bletchley Park then the Kafkaesque trial and chemical castration before his untimely death in 1952.

In this four hander, Gwydion Rhys delivers an introverted, intense Turing, the other three play composite characters – Interrogator, Friend, Betrayer.

One cannot fault the commitment and craft but at times they were struggling with some rather shaky dialogue that might have been lifted from Ripping Yards or Round the Horne ( “Christopher, am I rather ... odd?”).

In such a short play, there will be a tendency to use shorthand, verging into stereotype and this is clear with the Turing character.

He is shown as being other worldly to the point of autism. After 10 minutes of an intense, voyeuristic and explicit sex scene, he is asked if he is a homosexual. “I don’t know” says the ingénue. Really!

So an energetic, passionate and full on production, but what exactly was the untold story?

Did anyone in the full house walk away knowing any more about Turing? Probably not.

Rating: 2/5 stars.

To Kill A Machine

The King’s Head Theatre

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