Tuesday 20 August 2013

Edinburgh Fringe 2013 - Idle Motion's That Is All You Need To Know, or A Beguiling Example to Others

I'm very bad at going to things on the Fringe, so it was pure chance that I ended up at this performance, my much beloved former PhD supervisor having been handed a flier and then suggesting I come along. I'm delighted that I did. I badly needed to be reminded that plays can have characters, a narrative, and be emotionally engaging.

This is my first encounter with the company idle motion, but I shall be keeping an eye out for them in future years. What is especially notable about them to my eyes is their visual sense. This embraces their movement (which has a notable fluidity to it), and their imaginative use of sets and film (the latter is brilliantly integrated into the live performance, far more successfully and meaningfully so than anything Jonathan Mills's International Festival programme has so far offered). The filing cabinets are used in especially versatile ways – the water leaking was a brilliant touch.

Effective use is also made of oral history recordings of real life workers at the Park (often very moving), and archive wartime audio. Again this is a mark of the company's talents. I must have heard Chamberlain's speech declaring the country at war on numerous occasions, but the simply staged scene imagining contemporaries listening to it was freshly haunting.

This visual and aural inventiveness is in the service of a well crafted play about Bletchley Park. We cut between the experiences of those who worked there during the war to a motley crew in the present trying to preserve the Park from demolition. The performers all play multiple roles, with a commendable degree of success. The play has telling points to make about the price paid by those who worked at Bletchley Park particularly in terms of their vows of silence, about gender roles, and about the problems of preserving less immediately visible aspects of the past.

My one criticism of the piece is that I would have liked one of those “This is what happened to X” summations at the end (which would have been easily done given the film projections elsewhere). Obviously, I know something about Turing, but I particularly wanted to know what in the end was the fate of the other key protagonist (Gordon Welchman) and his book (Google is however my friend). But this is a minor issue. Taken altogether this is a lovely, inventive and moving show. Mark it up as one to see.

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