🎭 Alan Turing: A Musical Biography
📍 Riverside Studios, 101 Queen Caroline Street, Hammersmith, London, W6 9BN
🗓 Tuesday 9th January 2024
AN ENIGMA OF A SHOW
Alan Turing: A musical Biography is currently playing at London’s Riverside Studios and last week I was invited along to watch and review the show. I was genuinely looking forward to seeing this intriguing production, and with Turing as a central character I thought it would be gripping.
Unfortunately, although there were some good aspects within the production, I was left disappointed overall. We follow Turing from childhood, through his education to cracking the enigma code and the factors which ultimately led to his suicide.
Because it is essentially a story of his entire life, I felt that it skimmed some parts too quickly which left holes in the story and at times, especially when depicting the early parts of his life, the story was confusing. Was he in love with his childhood friend who died? How did Turing successfully graduate when just moments before we see him struggling at school?
This is a piece of musical theatre and the songs for the most part are good. The trouble is that there are far too many! One of the best things about this production was the quality of the acting and when Joe Bishop and Zara Cooke were allowed to showcase their acting talents they were great. But with the sheer amount of songs, there was little time for them to do this.
Perhaps because of the subject matter, the songs were all very middle of the road. Again, the songs weren’t bad but were all very similar. Stand them alone and they are good, but all together they quickly became repetitive. As someone who is a big fan of musical theatre, the secret to a good soundtrack for me is a real mixture of songs. Some which are slow and others which are faster, which gives an opportunity for the performer to showcase their vocals.
Perhaps in this instance it was for the best as unfortunately Bishop seemed to struggle with the vocals. Cooke however had a lovely singing voice but was never vocally challenged.
Cooke was the more interesting of the two overall because she single handedly played every other character in the story including Turing’s mother, short-lived fiancé, a teacher and a police officer. She skilfully switched persona and voice as she made her way through her plethora of characters.
As I’ve already stated the acting on display here was impressive and Bishop successfully displayed his changing emotions throughout, especially at the end when he rightly feels his sentence for being homosexual is unjust. Unfortunately the book was actually quite dull so even though the actors were great the script itself let the story down, being the weakest part of the production.
The show is now in its fourth iteration, first premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2022, so it was unfortunate that at times it felt as if I was watching a rehearsal or workshop rather than the finished product. There is a lot of potential with this production, especially as the subject matter of a national hero is universally appealing, but it does feel it needs some work.
If the script was reworked and some songs were taken out then maybe this would help. Another option would be to extend it and add an interval. This would mean that each element of the story would have time to breath and things wouldn’t seem so rushed.
Although overall this is quite a negative review I genuinely believe that this production has the potential to grow. At the moment it’s just a small acorn that has the potential to become an oak tree! At the heart there is a creative team that are striving to deliver something great and I think they could get there with this.
As I always say, everything I’ve said here is just my personal opinion and I encourage you to make up your own mind. The future of the theatre industry depends on productions such as this being supported so if you are interested in seeing Alan Turing: A Musical Biography, it is playing at Riverside Studios until Saturday 27th January. Head to www.riversidestudios.co.uk to check availability and book tickets.v cc
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest, fair and free from influence. Theatre is subjective and it is important to remember that all views expressed are just those of one reviewer.
My ticket for this performance of Alan Turing: A Musical Biography was gifted by Early Morning Productions who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the content of my review or the star rating given.
CAST / CREATIVES:
Joe Bishop - Alan Turing; Zara Cooke - everyone else!; Jane Miles - Director; Joel Goodman - Composer / Producer; Jan Osbourne - Musical Director / Assistant Composer; Joan Greening - Playwright
RUNNING TIME (approx):
1 hour 20 minutes, with no interval