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Saturday, 19 August 2017

Virtual reality theatre performance in Knutsford to commemorate Alan Turing trial

The father of the modern computer is to be celebrated with a play and exhibition in Knutsford.

Fifty years after the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality and changes to gay rights in 1967, the trial of the mathematician and code-breaker, Alan Turing, is being interpreted as a live theatre performance and virtual reality exhibition in Knutsford.

Through Cheshire East Council’s Shift programme and Heritage Open Days, the story of Turing’s trial is now being told at The Courthouse Hotel, Knutsford – the same building where he was sentenced to chemical castration 65 years ago when it was known as the ‘Sessions Court’.

The Shift programme, which is also bringing international designer Wayne Hemingway MBE to Macclesfield for a talk next month, celebrates digital achievement in the borough and is supported with Arts Council funding.

The theatre production of the trial will be enhanced with a separate virtual reality experience, with the audience able to view aspects of the trial through headsets.

Re-Dock – the creative company from Manchester, which is putting on the live show and producing the virtual reality experience – is appealing for extras to appear in the filming of the performance to create the courtroom setting. The company is also looking for a courtroom sketch artist to take a front-row seat at each of the performances.

Filming takes place at the Courthouse Hotel on Sunday, September 3 from 3pm. There will be three performances: one on Friday, September 8 at 7pm and two on Saturday, September 9 at 2pm and 7pm. A virtual reality exhibition will also be taking place at the venue from September 7-10.

Re-Dock have worked closely with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community for this production as part of the Heritage Open Days’ theme ‘Unsung Stories’ which celebrates LGBT heritage and history.

This is the first time that anyone has attempted to cover the trial in a live performance and also the first time that the subject has been explored in the setting where the trial took place.

Alan Turing was an English computer scientist and mathematician who worked as a code-breaker at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. He died in 1954, aged 41, from cyanide poisoning.

The theatre production is the centrepiece of the four-day event, hosted by Heritage Open Days, which runs from September 7-10.

Councillor David Brown, Cheshire East Council cabinet member with responsibility for tourism and visitor economy, said: “This is a rare opportunity for residents and visitors to view a show, which combines the best of modern technology in an outstanding venue of historic significance.

“I urge people from Knutsford and much further afield to embrace this chance to see the show and I hope that residents will also be able to assist the theatre group in helping out as extras.

“The Shift programme is producing some outstanding events and is something I am very proud of. The achievements of the digital and creative sector in the borough are vast and this programme is doing an excellent job in telling a wider audience.”

Heritage Open Days has commissioned Re-Dock in collaboration with Cheshire East Council’s Shift programme and The Courthouse Hotel with funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery. The event is also being supported locally by Knutsford Promenade Association.

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