Lovesong of the electric bear

The Hope Theatre, London

copy; Scott Rylander

copy; Scott Rylander

Welcome back Snoo Wilson. With his untimely passing two years ago, titles as beguiling as this disappeared from the theatrical landscape. And much else besides. So congratulations to the Hope Theatre, artistic director Matthew Parker and producer Cas Hodges for what turns out to be the European premiere of Snoo’s flight into the legend that has become Alan Turing, WWII code breaker and personal enigma.

Forget The Imitation Game, a pale shadow even of Hugh Whitemore’s award-winning 1986 stage play Breaking the Code (later adapted for tv with equal success). Turing has met his equal in the expansiveness of Snoo’s wonderful imagination. Written in 2003, Lovesong is at once wittier, wilder and more moving as if by touching the surreal, he also got to the heart of the mathematical genius who, traumatised by medical `castration’ for his homosexuality committed suicide at 41.

Turing’s story is told through the delectably outsize Porgy, Turing’s loyal teddy bear to whom apparently he used to practise his speeches. Heartbreaking is the moment at the end when having taken cyanide, Porgy follows his `master’ by pulling out his own straw innards.

But on the way to his demise, Snoo treats us to a whirlwind journey through Turing’s school-days, excursions to Poland, Bletchley Park and Manhattan drag clubs with a script as keenly aware of other world dimensions (Turing as a gift of the gods) as of his unconventional (bordering on autistic) personality and the social milieu of the time.

There are digs aplenty against the establishment and a wry sense of the absurd as well as Turing’s agony (you just have to look at the bitten fingernails), delivered with a compassion that leaves you in no doubt as to its author’s sympathies.

© Scott Rylander

© Scott Rylander

Director Matthew Parker too gives this electric bear a terrific run for its money in a kaleidoscopic production with a hugely talented cast of six who works wonders in a space the size of a postage stamp.

When so much theatre these days deals in tv realism, Parker and the company have produced a pacey, inventive cornucopia that does the memory of Snoo proud. Wherever he is on the astral plain, I hope he’s smiling.

First published in Reviewsgate, March 2015