The story of Alan Turing – told through dialogue and song – is performed in Alan Turing – A Musical Biography – now playing at Studio 3 at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith from 8 – 27 January.
Originally performed in a sold out run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2022, and then at the Kings Head Theatre in London, this compelling show is worth checking out.
Is a musical on the life of Alan Turing actually needed? We’ve all seen the documentaries about him, are all very familiar with his life story (a genius whose code breaking brain saved approximately fourteen million lives in WW2 who would later be shamed because he was gay), and some of us saw the middling movie ‘The Imitation Game’ (with Benedict Cumberbatch as Turing).
Directed by Jane Miles, with music by Joel Goodman and Jan Osborne, and a book by Joan Greening, the show (and lead actor Joe Bishop) get off to a bit of a wobbly start. The stage is set: desk, bicycle, books scattered on the floor, equations scribbled on the floor and on the chalkboard, coatrack, shoes and one sock, an apple. It takes a good 10 minutes for the show (and Bishop) to get into its rhythm, and once it does we become mesmerised by this story. Turing was an unsung hero, from the loss of his closest friend at school, to his time at Bletchley Park, a romance with a fellow worker, and the growing awareness of his homosexuality, plus the crucial moment he realises he knows how to beat the German’s Enigma Machine. Sara Cooke is very good, and stays very focused, playing one of the many dominating female characters in Turing’s life (his mother, Joan Clarke) – Cooke excels in her roles.
And as we get to the sad ending, there is one too many songs in the repertoire which lessens the impact of the show and his life, though at 80 minutes it’s compact and concise. Alan Turing – A Musical Biography reminds you what a genius Turing was, and you wonder what more he could’ve done if he hadn’t died at the young age of 41.
Alan Turing – A Musical Biography will play Studio 3 at Riverside Studios from 8 – 27 January, with a press night on Tuesday 9 January.