Edinburgh Fringe 2013
The story of the extraordinary men and women of Bletchley Park whose lives were hidden from view for so long is told here in a fabulous mix of physical theatre and visual tableaux.
Idle Motion’s fabulous show, That is All You Need to Know, is timely in a month where Bradley Manning was sentenced for divulging state secrets and whistleblower Ed Snowden was granted asylum in Russia. In the age of information, what should or can be kept secret is a pertinent question that occupies states and citizens alike. But Idle Motion are looking back to another era when keeping state secrets was both vital and unquestioned – All You Need to Know is about the extraordinary men and women of Bletchley Park who by decrypting codes and ciphers played a crucial part in World War II. It’s a remarkable story told with consummate storytellers’ Idle Motion’s wonderful mix of skill and inventiveness.
Moving seamlessly between the stories of the original men and women of Bletchley Park in World War II, a secret-spilling book of the 1970s revealing their tales and the more recent campaign to save Bletchley Park, Idle Motion create a mesmerising show. The complexity of moving between three stories set at different times is well managed; actors manage character changes without costume changes or big scenery changes and without confusion. Once again, Idle Motion’s storytelling skills produce a spellbinding show.
It’s a fast moving, well-directed show. Paul Slater creates a show that balances rapidly paced scene changes with moments of stillness to conjure up exquisite visual tableaux. Technically, this is a highly accomplished show, beautifully devised and executed with precision. Taped transcripts of veterans are interspersed into the play, giving voice to individual testimonies. In Idle Motion’s trademark style, physical objects are transformed beyond their everyday functions: scenes are projected onto handkerchiefs, opening drawers and suitcases to bring in the outside world. The gauze backdrop is used to dramatic effect with actors acting behind it and scenes projected onto it, taking it beyond the theatrical to the painterly.
Given the strong ensemble nature of the production, it feels almost wrong to single out actors for a mention. However, Sophie Cullen’s comic physicality and timing in the role of the older Joy is reminiscent of Complicite’s Celia Gore-Booth, high praise indeed. And Chris Bone’s understated performance as Alan Turing fully realises a character distanced by the secrecy required by both his work and his homosexuality.
The stories are fabulous: these are men and women who kept their secret long beyond the time they needed to do so. Alan Turing is the most well known, but Idle Motion make it clear that he was one of many and reference others who deserve to be better known (Tommy Flowers, who designed the world’s first programmable electronic computer, gets a mention). Heartbreakingly, their secrecy has meant that unable to reveal their true role in World War II many were reviled as cowards.
That is All You Need to Know is a fine tribute to these forgotten heros of World War II; their stories needed to be heard and still have resonance today. As Winston Churchill said “The further back you look, the further forward you’ll get”.
This is a highly accomplished and wonderfully entertaining show. Go see: you won’t be disappointed.