Theatre review: Ada
Theatre review: Ada

Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Ada, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Susan Mansfield. ★★★ There can be no doubt that Ada Lovelace is a fascinating figure. The daughter of Lord Byron, she was a mathematician and is considered a 19th-century pioneer of women in science. Through her work with inventor Charles Babbage, in particular a series …

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Edinburgh Festival

Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Ada, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Susan Mansfield.

★★★

There can be no doubt that Ada Lovelace is a fascinating figure. The daughter of Lord Byron, she was a mathematician and is considered a 19th-century pioneer of women in science. Through her work with inventor Charles Babbage, in particular a series of notes made on his Analytical Engine (a steam-powered mechanical computer so vast it was never built), she wrote the first algorithm intended for a machine – in layman’s terms, the first computer program.

Edinburgh University Theatre Company, directed by Melanie Phillips who conceived the show, weave an episodic narrative through Ada’s life, from her early fascination with flight to her death from cancer at just 36. Their fresh, inventive approach makes use of physical performance and film, with four women taking turns to play Ada, using only words taken directly from her writings and letters.

However, the decision to keep repeating the same section of dialogue between Ada and Babbage is confusing, and the company seems intent on educating us about science, frequently dropping out of the narrative to explain. These stilted interludes prevent us from engaging more fully with a compelling woman who clearly had plenty to say for herself.

Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49) until 30 August / listings

Published in The Scotsman on 22 August 2015

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