Idle Motion is a theatre group that specialises in physical theatre. In their new project, That Is All You Need To Know, four fundraisers in 1994 fight to save Bletchley Park so as to honour the group of geniuses who worked there for the English government during the war. Among said geniuses were Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman, all sworn to secrecy to ensure the safety of themselves and the nation. The play flits between the past and the present showing a struggle to be heard on either side, contrasting the past age of secrecy with today’s age of abundant communication.
The play began and finished with a downbeat, nostalgic tone. The acting was on the whole solid if lacking vitality. The actress playing the grumpy, inappropriate secretary Joyce was funny, but when it came down to it the script didn’t really allow for too much in the way of entertainment. The actor playing Turing was nuanced with a perfected stutter and the marital banter between two of the fundraisers was at times amusing, however the majority of the fundraisers’ conversations could probably have been cut, as they were often mundane and unnecessary.
The company explained they were trying to make the production ‘highly visual’ but the reason for doing so was not clear, nor was the production of inherent aesthetic value. The lighting was dark and dreary, perhaps to emulate the themes of mystery and secrecy. However, not only did this make it difficult to see actors’ faces clearly at important moments but it lent the production an unnecessarily drab, lethargic feel. Actors often entered and exited spontaneously through set props like cupboards or tables, which was in some ways impressive but didn’t seem to add much. Clips and writing were projected onto various props or areas of the set, which was, again, in some ways impressive but didn’t enhance any aspect of the production. Many of the physical theatre sequences consisted of Bletchley park workers filing papers into different cabinets, passing codes on, and dancing. Although professionally executed, these sequences did little to illustrate the play’s themes, or create moments of beauty or excitement. They simply showed a physical enactment of what was already being outlined.
The production’s greatest shortcoming though was in its failure to show how grand and important the World War Two Bletchley Park work really was, and how much those involved had to sacrifice to do it. Although the piece was commenting on the regrets of forgetting the past, this inability to substantially recreate a past image of Bletchley Park as something majestic undermined this intention. It suggested that the past wasn’t worth recovering.
There was a distinct lack of human interest, which is surprising as the themes of secret-keeping, storytelling and the battle between expression and suppression seem like fertile grounds for theatre. Sadly, the psychological effects of these behaviours on the individual were not explored sufficiently. For example, Turing’s suffering as a man suppressing his homosexuality was merely hinted at. So ultimately, both literally and metaphorically, the audience of That Is All You Need To Know were kept firmly in the dark.