That is All You Need to Know

Compared to the intrigue of the Bletchley years, the play's search for a modern context amid cake sales, bunting and meetings at the village hall can't help but seem mundane.

★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 11 Aug 2013

Still one of the most enigmatic episodes in Second World War history, the story of Bletchley Park is ripe for theatrical adaptation. The Official Secrets Act, wartime glamour, characters of genuine genius: it's all there. Idle Motion tell this tale with sensitivity and panache, focusing not just on the most famous name from that period, codebreaker Alan Turing, but on a number of the lesser-known personalities involved.

Our narrator is Gordon Welchman, a colleague of Turing's who ended his intelligence career in ignominy after writing the first book about Bletchley Park in the early eighties. Additional voices from the era come in the form of audio recordings of interviews with Bletchley veterans, while video fragments are put to good use evoking the mood of the period. These techniques, as well as the show's choreographed moments, are too derivative of companies such as Kneehigh to be truly original, but they're undeniably well executed.

Where Idle Motion let themselves down is with the more modern storyline layered on top of the central wartime plotline. The context—the local community's fight to save Bletchley Park from redevelopment in the early nineties—is a promising one, but compared to the intrigue of the Bletchley years, this talk of cake sales, bunting and meetings at the village hall can't help but seem mundane. Perhaps the company are aware of the weakness of this material and play up the offending scenes as a result. It's a shame because this is an otherwise engaging and enjoyable piece of theatre.