Review: To Kill A Machine

To Kill a Machine. Pic: Keith Morris
To Kill a Machine. Pic: Keith Morris
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A TREE of life takes centre stage in Scriptography Productions’ painfully poignant To Kill A Machine.

* * * * * *

Zoo Venues, The Pleasance

The piece revisits the tragic story of computer pioneer and cryptanalyst Alan Turing who, during World War II, was pivotal in defeating the Nazis - he cracked the code the Enigma machine allowing the Allies to decipher vital communications.

On second look, however, the tree could equally be one of knowledge or perhaps it’s not a tree at all. Perhaps it’s not a representation of the organic, but a machine.

Turing was fascinated by machines. By the difference between man and machine. “What is a man? What is a machine?” asks Gwydion Rhys, who plays the central role with an awkward serenity that verges on the docile, yet still manages to capture the angry alienation that comes with such fierce intellect.

He is a man on the outside looking in, not least because of his sexuality and Rhys nails that complexity in a mesmerising performance.

That disconnect from society is mirrored in Angharad Lee’s direction. Brave, imaginative and at times exquisitely surreal, it drives Caitrin Ffur Huws’ poetic script, as the four-strong cast manoeuvre themselves from scene to scene in stylised, deftly choreographed moves.

Turing has been revisited in many different mediums recently, perhaps most notably in a work by the Pet Shop Boys, which featured in last year’s BBC Proms.

His is a sad tale of betrayal - having cracked the Enigma Code, he was then charged with gross indecency after confessing to having same-sex relations at a time when it was illegal to be ‘gay’ in the UK.

Pleading guilty, Turing was sentenced to chemical castration. He killed himself a short time later. Huws implies he was the victim of establishment entrapment. Either way, 59 years later, in 2014, he received a royal pardon.

A camp game-show called Imitation is the device Lee uses to frame snapshots of Turing’s life as his fate unfolds on stage. It’s a stroke of genius.

Rick Yale, with all the surface bonhomie of a smiling assassin is ‘The Betray’. With each ‘round’ of the game-show, he bounces between characters - host, ministry man, lover.

As ‘The Friend’, Francois Pandolfo creates finely observed figures, slipping from cameo to cameo.

Robert Harper, meanwhile, brings a superior arrogance to ‘The Interrogator’, while demonstrating distant paternal care as Turing’s father in earlier scenes.

At times painfully poignant, To Kill A Machine arguably one of the most finely crafted hours of theatre you’ll find on the Fringe.

Until 31 August