Edinburgh preview review: Alan Turing, a Musical Biography

This biographical musical on Alan Turing (1912-1954) by Joel Goodman and Jan Osborne stops off at The Other Palace Studio before heading to the Edinburgh fringe and a brief stop in the West End at Wonderville in 2024.

I previously interviewed Goodman about the show and shared some thoughts in lieu of a full review when I was invited to watch it at the King’s Head (read here). Since then, it has gained a new script by Joan Greening and a new directorial vision from Jane Miles.

By ensuring Alan’s life and work is integrated through a range of characters played by Zara Cooke, the songs weave in without seeming incongruous or overdone.

The effect is a warm empathy for the eccentric scientist and a strong sense of injustice at the legal system, which condemns him for the sin of loving other men.

My previous thoughts were around who Alan (Joe Bishop) was as a person with those around him, and this has been strongly addressed in the new version. We feel we know him a little better now.

The character of his biographer, Andrea, no longer dominates but observes through being part of the action as characters contemporary to Turing.

Promotional photo for Alan Turing A Musical Biography

Showcasing Cooke’s acting skill as well as her vocal prowess, this choice complements Bishop’s thoughtful reading of Turing. I enjoyed the moments of connection between the characters, which made the story immediate and contemporary.

One aspect I was less sure about was the lighting changes, which have the potential to be distracting in this particular venue, especially when they were very bright. It’s a small point but sometimes detracts from the emotion of the piece.

Alan Turing: A Musical Biography now feels as if it does justice to the child who headed for mathematics and science and helped change the direction of the war.

His work on AI affects us all, his fate in an unenlightened world where gay men were criminals embodies the struggle to be accepted and allowed to be, which originally drove Pride.

Alan Turing: A Musical Biography played at The Other Palace for one night on 11 Jul as an Edinburgh preview. It now goes on to play the Fringe on 5-12 Aug and 14-19 Aug at Paradise in Augustines: tickets here.