Neil Harris: Codebreaker

Comedy (historical, stand-up)

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Neil is a comedian, animator and computer programmer who utilises his many skills to take you on a journey through historical events. Join him this year as he takes a look at the Enigma machine and how Alan Turing and Bletchley Park were able to crack it. He is, as ever, joined by his animated sidekick Helpy the Lion, who promises to both help and hinder the show. 'Neil immediately had the audience in the palm of his hand' (

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  • Wheelchair Accessible Toilets
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  • Wheelchair access type: Permanent Ramp, Level Access, Lift (Building Lift)

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LD 97 days ago

I can see why this show might not be everyone's cup of tea but if you're going with the expectation of learning a lot about codebreaking and enigma then you're probably looking in the wrong place, it's a comedy show. If you don't know anything about enigma at all, you'll learn something, and either laugh (like us, and everyone else in the room) or cringe, like some of the other reviewers. Personally I liked the snails, and Neil. Hope he's back next year.

Christopher Kelly 98 days ago

I hate being negative, but I do need to warn you, the paying audience. This isn't a show about codebreaking. If you have even the passing basic idea of ciphers, Enigma or doing newspaper puzzles, you won't learn anything here.

This is a show about British right wing politics, and although a link was (eventually) made between the modern menace of red top newspapers and the ill treatment of Turing, it offered far too little for the investment of the PowerPoint concept (I really disliked Helpy), and sitting through the solo comedy routines interrupting the animation (the back and forth was very well done, but the jokes dragged on - Harris needs to study more on how to get in and get out of a joke as most stayed around well past the punchline).

There's something here. Harris has a great delivery when he's actually talking about codebreaking and tech. There was no need to overcomplicate things. I'd have enjoyed hearing him talk more. Scrap Helpy, but maybe keep the back and forth between AN animated character, one that has some kind of redemptive qualities. Have more stories. Less politics (or at least have it more refined than "Piers Morgan bad, everybody clap now"). There's potential.

But don't expect a show about codebreaking.

Sorry for the negativity, hopefully it's constructive enough and best of luck with the next show.

Gaynor Sandall 99 days ago

Educational and entertaining! I've of my favourite shows.

Flagman 101 days ago

This show has something there, good jokes and an interesting topic.
But. It is delivered with poor timing and tone. He constantly apologises about the show being nerdy instead of taking pride in it. There is also a very confusing path for the show. It goes from topic to topic in a weird order, and often has long tangents that don't add much to the main show.

Jenna S 101 days ago

Neil is kind and gentle, and clearly an IT bod. However there was not much about Bletchley until at least 15 minutes in. His "alternative" comedy centred around his unapologetic leftwing political views. Please leave politics out ... and the snails. However I did learn a bit more about the Enigma code which was helpfully visually explained.

David Robinson 102 days ago

A gentle family-orientated powerpoint presentation about Bletchley Park. Neil is a very friendly, engaging and likeable chap who clearly knows his stuff and has some very good material. Looking forward to seeing his show next year, especially if it's without the lion and snails :-)

elaine green 104 days ago

Great start to the day, funny, informative and great animated double act

Julien 105 days ago

Very entertaining show! I like the ambivalence of the writing, as Neil is such a nice funny guy using Helpy his digital lion caracter to deliver some smart catching harsh facts about the Enigma machine and all the media packaging british government proudly made about it at the time and until now.

Ricki Smith 105 days ago

A very silly show, indeed quite "alternative" (as Neil described it himself) but very entertaining! The show meandered a lot, but I didn't come in expecting a dry documentary about Bletchley Park, which I could have seen elsewhere. Interacting with the prerecorded lion character was a novel touch that I thought worked well and made this stand out from the average Fringe show.

Crispin Belcher 106 days ago

The marvels of Bletchley Park revealed in a witty, extremely funny way by a witty, extremely funny and skilled comedian

Alastair McInnes 107 days ago

OK, you're not going to learn all that much about the Enigma machine or how it was broken, but you'll likely learn something. And, despite claims, you won't hear much alternative comedy either, but you will spend an hour being gently entertained - ideal for this time in the morning. And Helpy's kinda fun.

Ian Bowden 107 days ago

If you're looking for a show to ease you into the day like a brightening Hue light routine as opposed to a cold shower, this is good.
I knew nothing of the Enigma machine, and quite frankly haven't got a penchant for history in general, but I came out with a little bit of knowledge and admiration for the creators/crackers.

Helen Gill 108 days ago

Some funny bits but not nearly enough, and too much filler- wtf were the snails about?! Timing needs to be a lot sharper too.

Joshua Harris 109 days ago

This was simply a near hour long, cringe-inducing power-point presentation delivered by Neil Harris and his poorly animated cartoon lion called Helpy.

Helpy the lion is a terrible character. At first, he reminded me of those horrifying holiday resort mascots. Due to the lacking charm of cheap Adobe Flash animation and poor voice over, watching Neil Harris try to hold a conversation with his own PowerPoint presentation consistently filled me with cringe. It seems Neil wrote Helpy the lion to simply waste everyone's time with regular interruptions. He makes bad jokes and gives Neil opportunities to awkwardly shoehorn in his own strong opinions on Piers Morgan.

If you had any inkling that this show was going to offer any insight on the work of Alan Turing and how important breaking Enigma was to the history of Computing and/or the history of Britain beyond what you'd find on the first Wikipedia page, then I'm afraid you are sorely mistaken.

After the show finished, I did offer some feedback to Neil before leaving - especially since he said it was his first time doing a show at the fringe. "Please get rid of the Lion. It distracts too much from the show, especially when there's so much more to be said about Alan Turing and Enigma."

No Stars. Cannot in good conscience recommend this show.

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