Festival review: Crypted; C Nova (Venue 145)

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“I AM lying,” read the words on the chalkboard behind the fidgety academic. This, he tells us, represents the Liar’s Paradox.

For how are we to know if the writer is an honest man telling the truth or a liar doing what comes naturally? The rest of this wonderful, emotive play from writer and director Freddy Syborn asks which of these groups the academic belongs to, and whether the difference between truth and lie can be reduced to a simple binary concept. For our lecturer is Alan Turing, Enigma-cracking genius, persecuted homosexual and, until recently, an unsung British hero for both of these reasons.

The play deals astutely with themes of sexuality and gender in the midst of the seemingly unconquerable torrent of mid-20th century expectations and prejudices that weighed upon and threatened to defeat Turing’s true nature. Switching in time from his schooldays and a passionate, tragic, non-physical romance with another boy who feels similarly conflicted to the devastating contradiction of his latter marriage, Turing changes from bright, cheerful boy filled with questions about the world to shifty loner who haunts the workrooms of Bletchley Park.

Harriet Green, in a bold but utterly fitting piece of cross-gender casting, gives a captivating performance as Turing, her eyes searching the margins of the room as if constantly, sadly searching for all that he has lost. The play is written with razor-sharp insight, its overarching meditation on truth and honesty in the face of the laws of man and nature executed with resonant, touching coherence by the talented ensemble cast. Those seeking an unheralded gem in one of the Fringe’s smaller venues this year will find little more satisfying.

Rating; ****

Until 26 August. Tomorrow 2pm.