Tuesday, September 26

Alan Turing: Musical Biography – Paradise @ Augustines

We are asked: What does the name Alan Turing mean to you?

AI champion?

Inventor of the modern day personal Computer?

Breaker of codes, Saver of 14M lives?

Trailblazer of LGBT rights?

Put that way, its probably time that a lot more of us knew a lot more.

This musical, which had its Fringe debut and practically sold out in 2022, composed by two music teachers, Joel Goodman and Jan Osborne, with a new script by Joan Greening provides an excellent summary through the extraordinary life of Alan Turing. It presents experiences of his early life and motivations, including the death of his closest school friend, Alan’s key role in the Second World War as well as his continuous struggle with his concealed homosexuality.

This beautifully balanced two-hander has Joe Bishop as Turing and Zara Cooke in multiple roles, as mother, wife, school mistress and university don. Both actors play brilliantly against each other with sensitive and intuitive chemistry, which makes this a delight to watch.

The songs, whilst not stand out quality, nevertheless work in nicely with the storyline and the voices of Bishop and Cooke are pleasant enough.

Clever references to the poisoned apple in Sleeping Beauty throughout, a theme that apparently haunted Turing, herald the last song of the play, and the final mantra, ‘Dip the apple in the brew, let the sleeping death seep through’. Turing killed himself with a cyanide-filled apple at the age of just 41, two years after his criminal conviction based on his sexuality, after years of discrimination.

This show is booked to hit the West End in 2024, probably with a few tweaks, but this is a great chance to see the prototype. Not perfect yet perhaps, but still damn good!

In recent years, the fringe has proved a breading ground and at times very profitable place for historical documentary musicals to debut. Look at Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow who had extraordinary success with the musical Six, about the wives of Henry VIII, transferring directly to London’s West End following critical success at the festival in 2017. It has since gone on to Broadway and is currently on a highly successful tour of the UK, which started in 2018!

From small seeds?

Running time – 1Hr 5mins

Reviewer: Greg Holstead

Reviewed: 6th August 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.