Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: To Kill a Machine, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Billy Barrett.
The life of code-breaker Alan Turing – recently given the Cumberbatch treatment in the film biopic The Imitation Game – is examined in this inventively staged new play by Catrin Fflur Huws.
Using the frame of a gameshow, it intercuts bold theatricality with touching naturalism, giving us snapshots of Turing’s childhood, adolescence and career as a computer scientist at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.
Sensitively played by Gwydion Rhys, this Turing is a tortured, nervous type – torn between the desire to live openly as a gay man and to keep his head down and avoid controversy. The supporting actors’ constant switching between playing Turing’s friends and lovers, and a pair of gurning gameshow hosts, maintains a tone of menace but can be a little jarring at times.
There’s an interesting philosophical thread running through Huws’s writing about the boundary between humans and machines – mining the metaphorical potential of Turing’s theorising of artificial intelligence, and implying that his enforced “treatment” for homosexuality, the injection of oestrogen, in some way made the man a machine in destroying his sex drive. It’s a clever conceit that ultimately asks devastating questions about the ways in which societies dehumanise those they deem deviant.
Zoo (Venue 124) until 31 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 26 August 2015
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