Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

That Is All You Need to Know

The Company
Idle Motion
The Lowry Studio
02 May 2013 to 04 May 2013

The story of Bletchley Park and Enigma is now a proud part of our history, but its secrets came late thanks to the tight-lipped 8,000 who worked there all through World War Two.  In 90 minutes, this absorbing piece moves backwards and forwards in time between 1939 and the 1990s, but it is never confusing.  Seven cast play endless roles, with Chris Bone portraying the great mathematician Alan Turing as a gauche, taciturn genius. 

But how did the nation become aware of its great legacy?  Because the locals decided it was time to save the crumbling historic site, huts and all, which had helped spare us from an unthinkable fate.  Joel Gatehouse and Ellie Simpson are a treat as the village leading lights, she the 'doer', he the likeable bumbler, who finally overturned red tape, organised a reunion for the Bletchley survivors, recorded their memories, caught the country's fascination - and now we can all visit.  

Gordon Welchman, another genius colleague of Turing (Nick Pitt) becomes the guiding narrator throughout, as he writes his moving memoirs in tribute to the silenced (the book was barred from publication until the mid-1980s).  The entire production from this mini-company is a superb example of adventurous ideas, breathtaking lighting effects, silhouette backdrops, minimal props (what can you not do with revolving filing cabinets?), the voiced recollections of original Bletchley staff, plus creative synchronised body movements creating crowds, dance nights, train journeys and more, keeping up the pace and even the fun.

This is a true story of success on two levels: brilliant code-breaking and a determination to crack imposed secrecy.  Both won, and now this gem of a recreation deserves to sparkle in its own right. Try not to miss it.

Reviewer: Diana Stenson

Comments

Comment by David Upton

Attempting to explain the top-secret wartime exploits of Bletchley Park and juxtapose those with a more contemporary need to reveal that work to the world is a Big Ask.

It’s the kind of theme that intrigues writers like Nicholas Frayn and then maybe gets National Theatre backing.

So it’s a measure of the confidence of a tiny theatre company such as Idle Motion, and the support given to them by this venue, when this premiere production achieves all it does, and then some, with theatrical panache.

All that would be quite enough, but then Idle Motion turn it into even more exhilarating theatre with intricate and clever use of film and computerised projection so that – for example – images from the war in the Atlantic play across office desk lids, or complex mathematical code-breaking equations are drawn across the stage backdrop.

Some of the stagecraft and movement is just occasionally slightly self-conscious and I felt the acting does not always run on the well-oiled castors of the stage props, but you can’t escape the feeling that here is the genesis of a small piece of theatre that deserves far greater exposure.

Exactly the kind of production that fits into the Lowry's Accelerate programme, aiming to develop emergent theatre companies and their work.