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Joel Goodman- interview

Providing a different perspective on the life of Alan Turing from any other seen previously, despite the flurries of media about him out there, a musical biography on this subject is coming to the Edinburgh Fringe. The show delves into Turing's extraordinary life from all angles with new light, using his own words to illustrate this. From his incredible mathematicians knowledge, to huge role in World War Two- not forgetting his tragic and untimely death, and struggle with his sexuality- there is so much to unpack with his story.


Co-developed by Joel Goodman, he seemed like a great person to give some more information on how this piece has been developed, and here's what he said.

 

Why did you choose Alan Turing to feature your production on- what drew you to his life?

I chose to write about Alan Turing after brainstorming many ideas and listing many historic figures who a musical could be written about. I am particularly interested in people who have done something that could arguably be said to have changed history. I settled upon Alan Turing with my writing partner, Jan Osborne, as we felt he had a universal appeal. He appeals to historians, mathematicians, athletes, and people interested in gay rights and gay history.



What process of researching him did you undergo during the development of this show, and how true to his experiences have you kept the piece?

In terms of research for this show, I drew upon one of the most comprehensive biographies on Alan Turing's life. It is called Alan Turing: The Enigma and it is written by Andrew Hodges. I also read the successful play, Breaking the Code and, of course, I had to watch The Imitation Game. Additionally, I made a visit to Bletchley Park. I do not consider myself to be a historian and first and foremost I am a composer.

Although it may sound strange as this is a musical, I believe this piece is perhaps more true to Alan's life than any other production. The script in my show is only comprised of historic letters that Alan wrote to friends, family and colleagues. I have not put any words into the mouth of Alan Turing. What he says in our musical, he actually said.



How did adding a soundtrack and turning the narrative into a musical come about, and what can be expected of the songs featured?

I consider myself to be a musical theatre composer, so whatever I write will always be in the genre of a musical. The songs evolved naturally out of the events of Alan's life, as well as from the mathematical papers that he wrote.

The songs within the musical are my interpretation of how Alan may have felt about aspects of his life. As previously mentioned, the dialogue is exclusively taken from letters that he wrote. I would say that my writing style is more classical musical theatre than some of the well-known modern West End successful shows at the moment. The musical is accompanied by piano and cello throughout.



Do you think Turing's work as a skilled mathematician and code breaker was overshadowed by his sexuality?


I don't think that Alan Turing's work was overshadowed by his sexuality.


What is interesting is that in his lifetime very few people knew of what he did at Bletchley Park. Due to the secretive nature of his work in World War II he was never recognised for what he did during his lifetime.

Posthumously he was pardoned for his ‘offence’ of gross indecency and that put him at the front of the gay rights issues. I think that Turing’s work as a mathematician is held in high regard to this day. I also believe that the majority of society would condemn the way that he was treated and therefore he is remembered as a gay man who had a premature and tragic end to his life.



What has been challenging about producing a show that reflects a different version of society to the one we live in today?

The show is biographical in nature so really we are just making it known that society was different back then. It has not really been such a challenge to portray the differences as we just explain them to our audiences.



What can audiences learn from this story, and why is it an important one?

Audiences can definitely learn some of the most important happenings of Alan Turing's life by seeing our show. Perhaps they may perceive the feelings that he could have gone through a little more than if they were to just read a book or visit a museum. Audiences will learn about all of the talents that Alan Turing displayed and they will, of course, learn, if they didn't know already, how poorly he was treated in 1950s for being gay.



Which parts of Turing's life and legacy do you wish were more well-known?

I do feel that Alan Turing's legacy is quite well known nowadays thanks to film productions which probably have the widest reach in terms of the entertainment business.

I think Alan's work in World War II changed the course of the 20th Century, so that work should be extremely well-known. I also think his work on developing machines and the concept of computers was revolutionary. He was years ahead of his time and I wish he had lived longer as who knows what else he could have brought to our society.


 

Many thanks to Joel for telling us more about his intriguing new musical. Good luck for the run- you're going to smash it!


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{Some grammar is amended for clarity}



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