Gwydion Rhys talks about the challenges of playing Alan Turing

Alan Turing

The role of Alan Turing in To Kill a Machine will be played by Gwydion Rhys.

Gwydion’s theatre credit include CWRW, CHIPS A DARLITH DEG produced by Arad Goch, touring throughout Wales. PORNOGRAPHY and CRAZY GARY’s MOBILE DISCO (Waking Exploits), THE VILLAGE SOCIAL (National Theatre Wales), IESU and TEMPEST (Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru) CINDERELLA (RCT Theatres) and FRESH APPLES (Cwmni’r Fran Wen).

TV credits include Zanzibar, Tir, Cara Fi, Llan Ar Gollen, Daniels (Film)

“Before starting on To Kill a Machine back in 2012, I had no idea of who Alan Turing was, what he did and what happened to him. I think that says it all. For what he achieved and stood for, I had not heard of him, been taught at school of what he gave for his country during the war. It’s not a coincidence that his legacy was non existent, because of the rightful guilt carried by the government of how he was treated.

I feel blessed as an actor to have had the chance to learn about him, and more so get the chance to get to know him as a person through playing him back in 2012 in the early production and throughout the development of the story. I can honestly say, over the five years I’ve been working as an actor, Alan Turing has given me the best challenge. For me, it can be seen as a burden and an honour. By now, there is a huge film out about his life, and it seems that everyone seems to know him, want to know him. But as for how he was actually treated, have we really had a true reflection of how barbaric it was? This for me is the biggest challenge facing To Kill a Machine. I feel that we can truly pay respect to Alan, his work his life and what he sacrificed because of the rich and compelling script written by Catrin Fflur Huws. It is honest, saying it like it is without a filter, just like Turing.”

We asked Gwydion about the challenges of playing Alan Turing,

 

New play by Welsh playwright about Alan Turing to tour UK

KillMachine_km006

To Kill a Machine is a new play written by Welsh playwright Catrin Fflur Huws which will be touring in Wales and London in May including 6th, 7th and 8th May Arad Goch in Aberystwyth,  9th May Theatre Brycheiniog in Brecon, 12th May – Torch Theatre in Milford Haven, 15th May – Taliesin Arts Centre in Swansea , 17th May – Arcola Theatre in London, 21st May – The Miners in Ammanford, and 22nd May Theatr Hafren in Newtown. The play will also be at Edinburgh Fringe Festival   7th – 31st August.

To Kill a Machine is unique and innovative piece of theatre which offers an empowering and heartbreaking story of a man guilty only of knowledge, homosexuality and refusing to live a lie who was turned into a hero, vilified for his sexuality and suicide and resurrected to hero after his death.

It was originally piloted as a play during the 2012 centenary celebrations for Alan Turing’s birth during which it was presented at a Science Cafe at Swansea University. The project been embraced by computer scientists including support from British Computer Society and Computing in Schools.

The company have taken the innovative approach to use Kickstarter to raise funds for their production and tour and also towards their participation programme which seeks to promote the life, work and legacy of Alan Turing beyond the play.

Producer Sandra Bendelow said, “Launching the kickstarter campaign is about more than raising the money for the project. It was as much about how the community of computer science around us at Aberystwyth and in Wales supported the project and were asking – when is the play going to tour, when can we see this play again, when can we get people we know along to see the play. I was being asked, “How can I help? How can I support the play?” It has been staggering to see the support that there is, which seems to be about the way the community feels about Alan Turing but is also about this incredible play that Catrin has written which presents Alan Turing the man, his life and his work in a way that they love wholeheartedly. They want to support the project and so kickstarter is about them being involved at the very heart of it by financially supporting and supporting it through being able to tell other people about it who might want to support.”

The Kickstarter campaign is available at www.kickstarter.com/projects/scriptography/to-kill-a-machine

For more information on To Kill a Machine, Scriptography Productions and the writer Catrin Fflur Huws contact scriptographyproductions@gmail.com

A review of The Imitation Game by Catrin Fflur Huws the writer of To Kill a Machine. 

catrin fflur huwsw

I wonder whether every author feels ambivalent about other work that is somehow similar to his or her own? That was certainly my feeling towards going to see The Imitation Game, the new film about Alan Turing’s life, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. The fact that someone else has written the same story is in many ways encouraging – there is a shared realisation that the story needs to be told, but on the other hand, would people begin to have a surfeit of Turing, and would Cumberbatch’s portrayal be the definitive portrayal for a generation?

Of course, a film, especially a mainstream film is completely different medium from theatre. Both have their constraints as well as their freedoms. Graham Moore had to tell a much straighter story – in both senses of that term. Theatre is free to represent the real in an abstract way – my imitation game is actually a game, in the form of a seedy game show,  whereas Moore had to rely on a rather forced and unlikely conversation in a police station to explain Turing’s ideas. Theatre is also free to depict a gay sexual relationship far more graphically than would be permitted in a film – especially if that film is to be given a 12A classification. Accordingly, the focus of the film is on Turing’s relationship with Joan Clarke, but Keira Knightley’s portrayal is more carer than confidante.

On the other hand theatre is perceived to be a more ‘serious’ medium – drama is art and the audience is required to think whereas a cinematic audience is permitted to go an see a film purely for the purposes of entertainment. Accordingly, I was obliged to weave the complex strands of gender identity and the difference between a person and a machine far more consistently through the entire piece than is required of a film. There was also a need for my dialogue to be more reflective of the period, whereas a film audience would be more likely to appreciate more contemporary touches. Oh my God! People were literally starving while Alan Turing was being radicalised at Cambridge.

The nature of the audience is also different. It is anticipated that a British audience will  recognise Manchester University’s credentials as a highly respected university. There was no need for me therefore to move Alan Turing’s place of work.  However an international audience might be more likely to accept Cambridge as shorthand for an academic university. Cinema also relies far more heavily on the ticking clock to create tension. The bomb must be diffused before the timer gets to zero, or in this case the bombe must be made to work before the timer hits zero. A film needs clearer black and white delineations – the history of Western is the history of the hero on the left in white, and the villain on the right in black. Turing was therefore friendless and alone, trying to get his machine – which he named Christopher – to work, while Commander Denniston was threatening to close the operation down. The shorthand is simpler – Turing displays all the familiar characteristics of the ‘odd one out’ – he does not like sandwiches, he does not understand jokes, he cannot bear to mix peas and carrots. The real Alan Turing by contrast is described as very warm and generous, often funny, but impossibly untidy. The intimacy of theatre means that there is more freedom to present these aspects – to depict the person, to let the audience get to know him and to laugh at the lighter moments, only to make the tragedy more painful. The film is a story about Alan Turing. The play asks, if this is Turing’s story, might it also be yours?
Catrin Fflur Huws

Tybed a yw pob awdur yn amwys ynghylch gwaith gan eraill sydd mewn rhyd fodd yn debyg i’w waith ei hun? Yn sicr dyna deimlais i wrth fynd i weld The Imitation Game, y ffilm am fywyd Alam Turing gyda Benedict Cumberbatch yn y brif rol. Roedd y ffaith fod rhywun arall wedi ysgrifennu sgript ar yr un pwnc yn galonogol – mae’r stori’n werth ei hadrodd, ond ar y llaw arall, a fyddai’r awydd am Turing wedi pasio , ac a fyddai Cumberbatch yn chwarae’r portread diffiniol o’r cymeriad?

Wrth gwrs y mae ffilm – ac yn enwedig ffilm boblogaidd yn llwyr wahanol i theatr. Y mae i”r ddau gyfyngiadau a rhwyddinebau. Roedd yn rhaid i Graham Moore, ddweud stori llawer mwy syml. Y mae theatr yn rhydd i ddefnyddio dyfeisiau dychanol – gem, gem ar ffurf sioe gwis yw y Gem Ddynwared yn fy sgript i, lle roedd yn rhaid i Graham Moore ddibynu ar eglurhad o’r cysyniad mewn sgwrs anghyfforddus rhwng Alan a’r heddlu. Hefyd, y mae theatr yn gyfrwng llawer mwy rhydd o rhan sensoriaeth – gellir dangos perthynas hoyw yn gignoeth ar lwyfan mewn modd a fyddai’n golygu y byddai ffilm yn cael ei chyfyngu i oedolion. Gan hynny, mae’r pwyslais ar berthynas Turing efo Joan Clarke, ond serch hynny, nid yw portread Keira Knightley yn dangos Joan Clarke fel cyfaill i Turing, ond yn hytrach, fel gofalwraig.

Ar y llaw arall, rhaid i ddrama fod llawer yn fwy seriws – celfyddyd yw drama lle gall ffilm fod yn ddiddanwch. Gan hynny, roedd yn rhaid i mi sicrhau fod y ddeialog yn gywir i’r cyfnod, a fy mod yn cydblethu syniadau o wahaniaethau rhwng unigolion ar sail rhyw, a gwahaniaethau rhwng pobl a pheiriannau drwy’r holl sgript. Doedd dim lle felly yn To Kill A Machine ar gyfer y math o dwtsys cyfoes a gafwyd yn The Imitation Game. Oh my God. Roedd pobol literally yn llwgu tra’r oedd Alan Turing yn cael ei radicaleiddio yng Nghaergrawnt.

Y mae natur y gynulleidfa hefyd yn wahanol. Ym Mhrydain, y mae Prifysgol Manceinion yn gydnabyddiedig o ran y gwyddorau, felly doedd dim rhaid i mi symud lleoliad ei waith. Fodd bynnag, ar gyfer cynulleidfa ryngwladol, efallai fod Gaergrawnt yn dalfyriad mwy priodol ar gyfer Prifysgol academaidd. Hefyd, y mae ffilm yn dibynu mwy ar densiwn cloc yn tician. Rhaid diffodd y bom cyn i’r amser rhedeg allan, neu yn yr achos hon, rhaid cael y bombe i weithio cyn i’r amser redeg allan. Y mae ffilm angen cymeriadaeth ddu a gwyn llawer cliriach – yr arwr ar y chwith mewn gwyn, y drwgweithredwr ar  dde mewn du mewn ffilmiau Western. Gwelwyd Turing felly yn unig ac yn ddi-gyfaill yn gweithio ar ei beiriant – y gelwid yn Christopher tra’r oedd Commander Denniston yn bygwth cau’r holl brosiect. Y mae’r portreadau yn symlach – dengys Turing y ffilm holl nodweddion cyfarwydd ‘y person od’ – dyw e ddim yn deall jocs, dyw e ddim yn hoffi brechdanau, dyw e ddim yn cymysgu pys a moron. Roedd yr Alan Turing go iawn yn dra wahanol – disgrifir ef yn aml fel rhywun a oedd yn gyfeillgar ac yn ffeind, yn ddoniol, ond yn fler yn ei edrychiad. Mae mwy o ryddid mewn theatr i gyfeirio at hyn mewn modd cynnil – does dim angen i ddramodydd theatr falio ynghylch hoffterau Turing o ran moron a phys, ac mae’r hiwmor yn galluogi i gynulleidfa afos theatr unieithu yn well efo’r person – ac felly efo’r drasiedi. Stori’r ffilm yw dyma ddigwyddodd i Turing. Stori’r ddrama yw, os Turing, pam nad chychwi?
Catrin Fflur Huws