"Thoughtful and physical ensemble theatre"
by Rachel Knightley for remotegoat on 09/04/16

Script and direction are equally to be praised for an exploration of Alan Turing’s life and career that is as full of insight and individuality as it is of respectful curiosity.

Staged around an iron-trellis tree that sprouts from a black and white platform and bears the props, chains and key imagery tying Alan Turing to his life, the scenes of To Kill a Machine are linked by the device of gameshow ‘Imitation Game’ in which Turing argues what – if anything – separates the thinking of a machine from a human, or a man from a woman, and the implications if society is wrong in thinking there can be a definitive separation. The ‘Imitation’ rounds are commentaries on what has just happened and what is about to, creating seamless shifts from one era of Turing’s life to the next.

Gwydion Rhys’ focused and detailed central performance reconciles Turing’s mathematical genius and social incompetence in a complex, infuriating and compelling character with whom the audience is fully involved at every moment. The dying away of facial ticks and lessening of the stutter as life goes on overcome the lack of any costume change to give us an effortless awareness of the passing years. The greatest joy of this production, though, is that it is ensemble theatre at its best: Rick Yale, Francois Pandolfo and Robert Harper create minor characters who are never minor; the company of four are equally essential to this physical and emotional world that never stops convincing or shocking, regardless of whether the scene content is mathematical or sexual.

In following the plot with uncompromising tightness, the script and production never have to compromise on characterisation. Nor does the force and visibility of the metaphor compete with the practicality of the set. This is a refreshingly holistic and coherent concept without a weak scene or a drop in pace. Both the historical period and, at the same time, the universality of the struggles presented are recognizable in every scene of this concise and moving story. As theatre, and as a timely (in that society is finally trying to be ready) example of how constricted views on gender and sexual identity miss the most important things about the human condition, this is not to be missed.

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