The Turing Monologue - Joshua Val Martin - Manchester, UK
In the centre of Manchester a curious statue resides in Sackville Park at the heart of the city's gay village. A man on a bench, attired in an old fashioned suit is contemplating an apple. The work is life-size and depicts Alan Turing, scientist and wartime code-breaker, 1912-1954, who was given the option of prison on account of his homosexuality, then illegal, or to undergo chemical castration. After a year of horrendous hormonal treatments which ruined his libido and made him develop breasts, he committed suicide by eating a poisoned apple, a neat reference to his favourite film Snow White & The Seven Dwarves and a charming insight into the humanity and humour of a man who has shaped the world of computers and our own via his research. Turing, now a national treasure has been posthumously pardoned for his tragic victimisation, but he was only one of many gay men who were consumed by a society whose disapproval was tantamount to a witch hunt. His portrait now adorns the back of the the UK's £50 note, that and his name on streets would rightly seem rather queer to him, along with his immortalised likeness in an area that celebrates the love for which he was so callously punished.
Writer & performer Joshua Val Martin has for the past six years, every Thursday in sunshine, or the more likely Manchester downpour, sat with Turing at 11 am. An odd couple of metal and flesh. The statue is the meeting point for his guided tours around the city and during these, with his writer's eye for oddness, he has collected a raft of details now woven into a sometimes affectionate, occasionally exasperated, monologue. Via his enterprising initiative he encountered the mother of a Uruguayan rugby player, two tax men on leave from their snooping but with a penchant for rubber wear, and Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher. He has also become a beacon for the dispossessed, the mad and those with nothing better to do, as well as becoming the focus of a rival walking tour with calamitous consequences.
His tales are both small and tall, but very funny as he presents the audience with a series of verbal postcards and polaroids. It is a touching idea that could be done with equal pathos in any metropolis, but for him he has the ghost of the unfortunate Mr. Turing by his side. Wry, enjoyable and laced with pathos, it is a wonderful first half of an unusual but inspired evening.
DOUBLE-ENDER - Joshua Val Martin & Jez Dolan
16th-18th September - The Edge Theatre, Manchester
4th September - Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield
30th September - The Met Theatre, Bury
14th October - Oldham Coliseum Theatre
When artist and writer Jez Dolan takes the stage one is quickly enveloped in a lost world and language. Part lecture, part stand-up routine, he unveils the hidden language of Polari, a mixture of foreign words, rhyming slang, and a vast assortment of influences, the coded means of communication gay men used to avoid a consequence like Turing's. It is also rich and illuminating. Words like "vada" meant "look," "eek" was the face, "riah" a back spelling for" hair," and "dolly" was "nice." To steal a line from Quentin Crisp, an icon that crops up in the proceedings, and who died just a few streets away at the start of a national tour, the evening becomes "a straight talk from a bent speaker." Touching and at times haunting, an elegy for a lost world, there is laughter imbued with tragedy. Aids, marginalisation, death and otherness. The way times have for most, thankfully changed. With acceptance though much has sadly been lost because it is no longer necessary to be covert.
Hugely informative and bitingly funny his observations never labour their point, nor does it fall foul of being overtly political. Dolan resembles a rather naughty teacher, the kind we all remember with affection because their classes were something to look forward to.
It can only be hoped that this production is taken further afield.
Both monologues have an ability to transcend their locality being sourced in the universality of human nature.
The audience wandered out with a smile on their faces and a fair few reflections to consider.
A wonderful evening of informative fun, simple, affecting and enriching.