A fictionalised account of the final moments in the life of Alan Turing is to be premiered via The Independent website from today. In the first collaboration of its kind between a national newspaper and an independent production company, the radio drama features Samuel Barnett, star of History Boys and Desperate Romantics, as the Bletchley Park code breaker. He died in 1954, eating an apple laced with cyanide after being convicted of gross indecency. The shame meant Turing was dropped from sensitive government work.
Turing's Test, a Made In Manchester (MIM) production, examines the scientist's legacy in the field of artificial intelligence and the personal tragedy of his suicide through a deathbed dialogue with a "machine", played by the actor Paul Kendrick.
There has been mounting concern within the independent sector that the continued domination of the BBC is thwarting creativity in genres such as radio drama and comedy which have long enjoyed reputations for innovation both among performers and audiences.
Ashley Byrne, creative director of MIM, said the newspaper website was the ideal outlet for topical short-form content and would reach out to new audiences. "Writers, actors and directors are frustrated by the conventional commissioning processes in TV and radio and want the chance to take risks on new work," he said.
Roger Alton, editor of The Independent, said Turing was a fitting subject for the play. "He was one of the great British heroes of the 20th century whose death is a terrible scar on British justice. It is a great privilege to make this new drama available on The Independent website, and is part of the great tradition of innovation which has always characterised The Independent."
An internet campaign to persuade the British Government to issue a posthumous pardon to Turing, who underwent brutal chemical castration "treatment" for his homosexuality, was signed by thousands of supporters across the world, including the scientist Richard Dawkins, the actor Stephen Fry and the novelist Ian McEwan. Gordon Brown issued a statement in September condemning the official treatment of Turing as "appalling".