Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Turing Project - An Interview With Jon Armstrong

This year is the centenary of wartime code-breaker Alan Turing's birth. To celebrate this, Manchester Science Festival has a whole host of events highlighting the achievements of this great man.

The Turing Project is an immersive theatre experience in which you'll become a member of a top secret group of scientists. Your role will be to safeguard an emergency communication channel, keeping it open for agents to send out distress calls. We stole a few minutes with organiser Jon Armstrong from theatre company Simply Told to find out more.

Can you tell us a bit about the Turing Project –  what can people expect from it?

The Turing Project is an immersive theatrical encounter for 4 people, based on the work of Alan Turing. The audience are thrown into the world of the wartime code-breaker, where they will have to work individually and collaboratively on breaking a cypher and establishing radio communication with a mysterious broadcast. It is then their duty to establish whether the voice they are communicating with is that of a man or a machine.
How did you come up with the idea for The Turing Project?

We have long been fascinated by the work of Alan Turing, and this is our attempt to allow people to experience his work and legacy. We believe that he was treated appallingly by the country that he served so well, both during the war and in his legacy beyond.
What do you think makes a good immersive experience?

A good immersive experience is one that is completely designed round the involvement of the audience. The outcomes of the piece will change with each audience, and we hope that this direct involvement in the performance makes for an engaging experience for both audience and us.

Have you ever had any unusual or unexpected reactions from the people who take part in your events?

We have had some very strong reactions. During the tour of The Alpha Project (which came to MSF in 2010), we had people frozen to their chair, sensing presences that weren't there and generating some incredible coincidences, amongst many others. This was due, in part, to the subject matter – the show dealt with people’s belief in psychic ability, from a purely skeptical standpoint – and it is incredible how real and involving these things can seem when you are thrust into an immersive world through which you have to find your own way.
What’s the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is the opportunities it provides to create these experiences. I strongly believe in the power of culture to change people’s perceptions and viewpoints, and I think that immersive theatre is a great way to truly involve people in a wider cultural conversation.

How important do you think arts-science collaborations like yours are?

I believe that arts-science collaborations are very important. Both worlds have an enormous amount to teach the other in terms of the development and communication of ideas, and there had been an unnecessary divide between them for too long. Collaborations such as these reach new audiences, encourage debate and hopefully broaden horizons.
Have you always been interested in science as an inspiration for your work?

Science has long been an inspiration. My background is in magic, which uses very rational techniques to create irrational experiences, and the world view that this encourages shares many similarities with a scientific outlook and approach. Science has fascinating stories to tell, and I believe that theatre can go some way to telling them.

Sat 27 Oct 2012 12 noon - 9pm
Sun 28 Oct 2012 12 noon - 9pm
Mon 29 Oct 2012 12 noon - 9pm

Shows start on the hour and last 30 min. Book online.

The Turing Project is available as part of our Science After Dark programme. For a full list of events inspired by Alan Turing click here. For the full festival programme please see our website. Get the latest news on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to our e-newsletter.

1 comment:

Michael Smith said...

I think he is the one who broke the code for enigma. very interesting! :)