In October 2014, I went to Jacksons Lane in Highgate to see That Is All You Need To Know, an original play developed by the cast and creative team of Idle Motion, an exciting young theatre company, whose profile should only get bigger on the strength of this piece.
‘That Is All You Need To Know’ told the story of Bletchley Park’s wartime years and how the secret code-breaking headquarters came to be rediscovered and rescued for the 21st century.
I was captivated by Idle Motion’s story-telling, the invention and skill with which they conveyed the complexities of the Bletchley Park story, the conflicts and pressures faced by the men and women who worked there.
With visual flair and few resources, the cast and crew used a creative toolbox containing puppetry, dance, video projections and audio recordings to tell this complicated tale. There was never a wasted moment on stage, in speech or movement. The range of stagecraft and technologies used always added and never detracted from the story being told – thanks to Technical Manager, Greg Cebula.
The play’s time frame skipped back and forth, with the cast of six performing multiple roles, from Alan Turing to Gordon Welchman, with a name check for Tommy Flowers, who was instrumental in designing the Colossus computer but who is often left out of the Bletchley Park story, unfairly in the opinion of some (including me!). Perhaps there is another play for Idle Motion to develop there…
The crucial roles women played in the Bletchley Park story were assuredly conveyed by Grace Chapman, Sophie Cullen and Ellie Simpson (the mainstays of Idle Motion, along with fellow Artistic Director, Kate Stanley who directed the play with Paul Slater).
There was intelligence, humour, warmth and determination in their performances. It felt like a sincere tribute to the real life women of Bletchley Park. I was very moved by the authentic interview recordings with Bletchley Park women, their elderly voices contrasting with the youthful intensity of their work during the war.
The less well-known story of how the Bletchley Park site was rescued from property developers in the early 1990s was skilfully woven into the play. It was awful to realise that but for the efforts of a small group of amateur fundraisers, the site may have been lost for good. Parallels between the dedication and tenacity of the campaigners and the code breakers were effectively made, but not over-stated.
I am quite the Bletchley Park geek and have visited several times but this thread of the play really brought home to me how near we came to losing a crucial part of our history. This was a powerful, moving production and it has stayed with me long after seeing it. A just tribute to Bletchley Park’s legacy.
I see on Idle Motion’s website that their next production, ‘Shooting With Light’ starts at the end of March 2015. Focusing on the life and work of photo-journalist, Gerda Taro, whose work covering the Spanish Civil War has all but been forgotten, this promises to be another mesmerising piece shining a spotlight on the past and its unsung heroines. I can’t wait to see it.