LOVESONG OF THE ELECTRIC BEAR
by Snoo Wilson.
Above the Arts Great Newport Street WC2H 7JB To 21 November 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm; Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7836 8453.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 November.
Dynamic yet surprisingly sympathetic play by a wildly inventive playwright.
What is in a name? The childhood nickname Andrew Wilson kept as his public moniker somehow fits the range of speculative subjects and wild manners of treatment he explored until his death in 2013. At times tendentious, often enough hilarious (someone should revive The Glad Hand), Snoo Wilson was the wild card among the so-called Wild Bunch early seventies playwrights.
This later piece is the sympathetically told story of a mathematical mind who helped shorten World War II by his work on the famous Bletchley Park code-cracking project, and a key figure in developing computers post-war at Manchester University.
Turing was hounded to death in his early forties by the shame of a court case over his sexuality. It lead to chemical treatment that was, in every way, unsuccessful. If British sexual morality lost literature Oscar Wilde, the loss to science here was incalculable – except, no doubt, by Turing.
Wilson takes the common bio-drama device of looking back at a life from its end. Unconventionally, he ‘undoes’ the death by replacing the poisoned apple that killed Turing through the agency of a furry bear. Turing’s loved toy from boyhood, it’s incarnated human-size by Bryan Pilkington, who helps magic Turing’s way through life, flushing away unhelpful characters with a cheery insouciance, which leaves Ian Hallard free to show Turing’s innocent bewilderment at events.
Wilson deals lightly with individual matters – the attempt at a heterosexual relationship is gently introduced then simply mentioned as not working out. He, and Hallard, show a more tactful Turing than the grandstanding arrogance of the most recent celluloid account; Hallard’s Turing merely wants to concentrate on work as he quietly moves through life.
If, nowadays, much of the wild theatricality Wilson employs is familiar enough, that’s because others have caught-up with his instinctive dramatic language. Streams of tape across the stage represent a kind of festivity as well as material to code the computer.
Matthew Parker’s production handles it with lightness and sensitivity, finally balancing the sadness of early death with winking lights and tinkling sounds as people walk among the electronic world Turing had helped create.
Porgy: Bryan Pilkington.
Alan Turing: Ian Hallard.
Christopher Morcom/Undergraduate 1/Rajewski/Joan/Bronwyn: Laura Harling.
Clemmie/Mrs Turing/Man/Nurse/Woman: Helen Evans.
Kjell/Davis/Undergraduate 2/Cornish/Arnold/Judge: Chris Levens.
Churchill/Hallam/Turing Senior/Blackwood/Dilly Knox/Sergean/Barman: William Hartley.
Director: Matthew Parker.
Designer: Zoe Hurwitz.
Lighting: Tom Kitney.
Sound: Paul Freeman.
Costume: Clare Amos.
Assistant director: Phil Croft.