Chess playing automaton that beat Napoleon

The Turk

Friday, 18th January 2019, 12:07 pm
Updated Friday, 18th January 2019, 12:09 pm

Square Chapel, Halifax on January 31 (01422 349422)

Michael Sabbaton’s brand new, original work is inspired by The Mechanical Turk - the famous 18th century chess playing automaton that wowed audiences and influenced great thinkers all around the world for over eighty years. Even though it’s based on historical fact, The Turk still holds great mystery and enlightenment on our own developing relationship with ‘the machine’, artificial intelligence and reality in today’s modern world. The show is a piece of dark, humorous mystery, philosophical adventure and dramatic showmanship with atmospheric sound, music, song...and robotics too. The Turk came to “life” in 1770 when it was presented to Empress Maria Theresa of Austria by Wolfgang von Kempelen and went on to influence and bamboozle the world for several decades. It was a life-sized automaton in the garb of a ‘mysterious’ Ottoman Turk which gazed down onto two opposing armies of chessmen. A key was inserted, the mechanism was wound and with a whirring of cogs The Turk came to life, raising its head and making its move. History shows it took part in games with opponents from Napoleon to Beethoven, Barnum to Babbage, Benjamin Franklin to Edgar Allan Poe. In this show we join its latter owner Johann Nepomuk Maelzel - surrounded by well-travelled packing crates and empty wine bottles. Drunk and dying he revisits scenes from his life, losses and adventures with the amazing, chess playing automaton. Fuelled with alcohol and yellow fevered madness, Maelzel and The Turk explore the sacrifice of the showman, the promise of the engineer and the passion of the dreamer against a philosophical backdrop of life, love, cognition and existence...

Tickets from 01422 349422. See a clip on