★★★ That Is All You Need To Know | In a day and age where you can share every aspect of your life at the touch of a social media button, the concept of an entire workforce keeping ‘what they did in the war’ a secret for 30 years is one which may be difficult to comprehend. But for the workforce of Bletchley Park, where the government brought together some of the greatest minds of the time together to gather war time intelligence, that is exactly what they had to do.
Fringe theatre group, Idle Motion, brings together the stories, testimonies and characters of people who were involved in one of the best-kept secrets of recent history. Framing the story with three points of reference; a couple in the 1990’s trying to save Bletchley Park Hall; Gordon Welchman (Christopher Hughes) writing his book about his time in ‘Hut 6’ and a young lady writing a play about the subject; the play travels between the 1940s, 1970s and 1990s and provides the audience with good all round performances, a fascinating narrative and some incredibly inventive presentation.
Whilst Alan Turing (played with a quirky awkwardness by Luke Barton) may be the Bletchley Park poster boy, the stories of those around him are just as fascinating. The tragedy of Turing’s subsequent persecution about his sexuality is sensitively handled and is surprisingly moving, but the stories of his colleagues are equally as interesting. The show uses a combination of acting, a resourceful use of props, digital projection, choreographed movement, soundbites and even puppetry to tell the stories in a visually interesting hotchpotch of styles which works surprisingly well without ever feeling too muddled which brings a good match of style and substance.
Idle Motion has clearly spent time in researching the subject and that comes across in the writing and performance. The story of cracking the enigma code is not gone into in any great detail but enough information is presented to both inform and intrigue. This also allows a shift in focus to a celebration of the people themselves over and above their remarkable achievements, bringing a real humanistic quality to the show. This was enhanced further by the use of recordings from actual workers from Bletchley Park speaking of their life and times there.
As a narrative, the bulk of the show as utterly absorbing and I found myself wholly drawn into the stories of those involved in the war effort. The show perhaps may have been slightly more consistent without the interposed 1990’s story, but overall, the show was fascinating and it was pleasing to see that in the sold out auditorium, Bletchley Park and Alan Turing drew such a diverse audience of young and old.
That Is All You Need To Know is currently on a national tour until 27th June 2015. Details of the tour dates and venues can be found at www.idlemotion.co.uk. For those in the South Yorkshire area, the show will be visiting CAST Theatre in Doncaster on the 17th June 2015 (www.castindoncaster.com). The show was reviewed at Sheffield Theatres (www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk) who offer a mix of national tours, in house productions and fringe theatre pieces.