First proper Bletchley show

Well, that was lovely. This evening in a crypt in Bethnal Green we had our first show. It’s about Bletchley Park, and the audience are brought in to learn some codebreaking and see the result of their work.

In an estate outside Milton Keynes, a tight knit group of extremely clever men and women gathered together to work in a radio factory. They might have been thought of as draft dodging from the outside. But the work they were doing turned out to be absolutely crucial to the war effort. The Polish cracked enigma before the war, but it took too much time to get enough useful information before the settings shifted. The folk at Bletchley Park were working on doing it faster. The famous name now is rightly Alan Turing, with his incredibly precocious “thinking machines” designed to speed up the whole business of finding the daily setting. Mathematicians and linguists were working alongside one other in absolute secret. They made D-day possible among other things. The audience for the show collectively help make other wartime events possible in the moment.

This evening I finally discovered their discovery and realised what a lovely show it is. They have to do things but they very quickly get stuck in. It’s not a sitty downy watchy watchy show. You follow your nose as an audience member and things are happening in all the rooms. So far so BAC 2003. But it’s a tried and tested frame and it works. If you’ve got a friend in the show you probably stick to them, and they won’t suddenly inexplicably just stand still facing a wall like some of the actors I shadowed in early versions back then when they had run out of the “thing we are supposed to do”…

I ended up making friends with Gilly. We had some very good conversations about the nature of secrets and transparency, and about kindness. She helped me crack a cipher and even tried to steal some things for me. We had a reasonably good audience and it was lovely to feel the piece landing. It’s good craic, and it’s clever. I’m thrilled to be a part of it. I get to channel the disordered benign linguist aspect of the kaleidoscope of potentialities that make all of us up. We’ve all got a bit of disordered benign linguist available to us, but it’s a shard of my potentiality that has been well fed over the years, so now the white noise of opening show is clearing I can settle in and start enjoying myself, and bring in more nuance and less wash.

I was curious to see how Vigenère came out if I enciphered a word with itself – whether there would be a discernable pattern. I went with “pipe”. Turns out there’s no predictable pattern but the same letter will always go to the same letter as with the E from P thing. Minutes after I did it I was asked what would happen if you did it so I showed that. No unnecessary work is wasted here, it seems. Hurrah.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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