by Idle Motion.

Runs 1hr 25min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 September at Oxford Playhouse.

Fine show with quiet, controlled excitement.
No tour dates are currently listed for this piece, seen also at 2013’s Edinburgh Fringe. But, given their youthful energy and enterprise, Idle Motion is far more likely to be in motion than idle, so further dates will doubtless arise.

As regular Idlers know, this is a company crammed with physical inventiveness and technological expertise. They’re also closely linked to Oxford, whose Playhouse they packed-out (even for one night a feat for a small-scale company with neither star name nor tabloid subject) so the intelligence of their material and the range of scientific, literary and philosophical material they cover with their particular theatrical originality, shouldn’t surprise. An excitement infuses each Idle Motion show, emanating at least partly from the performers’ sense of joy in discovery.

And they have avoided over-using their ideas. Some features of this piece recall earlier shows – images projected on to filing-cabinet drawers, characters emerging through the same cabinets. But it’s all with a purpose – the characters are breaking-into Bletchley Park, wartime home of Britain’s most secret intelligence operation, to prevent its corporate owner selling it off half a century on.

Though based on a book by Gordon Welchman, one of the wartime Bletchley mathematicians who broke the incredible, and ever-varying, complexities of the Nazi Enigma codes, and including Bletchley’s most famous worker, Alan Turing, the piece – its title simultaneously invoking secrecy and, via Keats, the idea of permanence – is more about society remembering or forgetting, honouring or ignoring, such a achievement.

So the mundane – mending a bike or fundraising – mixes with the extraordinary, such as how a scientific genius sets about diagnosing the problem with a bike-chain, in a way that seems natural as yoghurt to the scientific mind concerned.

If the piece is less theatrically extravagant than previous company shows, that fits its more focused subject. And it represents a major advance in the area where previous work has been weakest, the quality of speech. Vocal characterisation and speech structures are newly convincing, in a piece which needs that quality to ensure we know, and appreciate the significance of, all we need to know.

Alan Turing: Chris Bone.
Lottie/Sarah: Grace Chapman.
Gladys/Joy: Sophie Cullen.
Hugh/George: Joel Gatehouse.
Gordon Welchman: Nicholas Pitt.
Jane/Liz: Ellie Simpson.

Director: Paul Slater.
Designer: Freda Johnson.
Lighting: Greg Cebula.
Sound: Charlie Donegan.
Costume: Tash Prynne.
Voice artist: Dan Barker.
Dramaturg: Lotte Wakeham.
Additional choreography: Jan Avery Harris.
Assistant directors: Sophie Cullen, Kate Stanley.

2013-09-12 15:14:06

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