Breaking The Code

by Hugh Whitemore

Breaking The Code had 4 performances almost 11 years ago (between the 28th of March 2007 and the 31st of March 2007) at The Riverhouse Barn

A play based on the book Alan Turing, the Enigma by Andrew Hodges.

A compassionate and often amusing play concerning the remarkable mind and tragic fate of Alan Turing, mathematician and computer pioneer who broke the code in two ways. One was by cracking the German Enigma code at Bletchley Park during World War II for which he was decorated by Churchill and lauded by the State. The second was by shattering the gentlemanly English code of sexual discretion and making little attempt to disguise his homosexuality. For this he was arrested on a charge of gross indecency. Whitemore's play, shifting back and forth in time, constantly seeks to find a connection between the two events and tackles major questions such as the relationship between mathematics and personal morals whilst telling a very good story.

"It is the work of a superb theatrical craftsman who knows how to keep an audience hooked while planting ideas like seeds" - The Guardian

The successful London and Broadway runs in 1986 and 1987 respectively, starred Derek Jacobi.

We will perform this play at the Barn in the round. Each of the two acts is made up of 8 or 9 short scenes, so staging will be very simple – and each scene goes back and forth in time between 1927 and 1954 – so just a few tables and chairs will signpost where and when we are.

The play is made up of occasional monologues, but mainly duologues; there are never more than three people on stage and Alan hardly leaves it – he has virtually every other line in the play! There is little in the way of ‘action’, but the theatrical craftsmanship is so powerful this play will NEVER be dull – I expect it to be completely riveting.

And there will be plenty to explore in rehearsal as we try to see inside the brilliant but troubled and enigmatic mind of Alan Turing

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Alan Turing - David Webb

Early forties. At the centre of the play of his life, this is an enormous part offering an outstanding opportunity for someone to explore a real life figure. Alan is shown at ages between 16 and 41 (when he died) and the actor must be able to slip effortlessly between ages without leaving the stage and without makeup or significant costume changes. Brilliant, quiet, introverted, lovelorn, determined, eccentric, gay, stubborn, and a genius. He had a mild stammer, which is referred to briefly, but actors should not unduly concern themselves about that – it should be played down not up.

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Mick Ross - Adam Roberts

30s/40s. Detective Sergeant investigating Alan. Down to earth, no-nonsense copper, unable and unwilling to turn a blind eye to Alan’s confession of homosexuality. This is a very important role as Ross is in 5 scenes and keeps the plot moving along. He has humour, and is not without compassion for Alan, even though he is clearly unable to understand him.

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Christopher Morcom - Luke Stapleton

About 17. A small (one early scene) but important part for a young man to play Alan’s school friend and platonic first love. Sharing Alan’s interest in science and maths, their friendship was doomed when Chris died at 18, Alan later admitting he had ‘worshipped the ground he walked on’.

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Sara Turing - Frankie Godliman

Say 50s – Alan’s mother provides an important maternal and emotional focus for Alan and the play as a whole – she has four scenes aging from about 42 to 65. Traditional, sheltered, middle class, loving but concerned for Alan, she perhaps surprisingly reacts pretty well to Alan coming out. One of her tragedies is that she, like many others, never learns what Alan did for work nor his importance to the country.

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Ron Miller - Chris Knights

20s/early 30s. Ron is the ‘bit of rough’ that Alan meets in a pub and because of whom he gets arrested. Over three scenes this is an important role that allows the audience to see the private side of the adult Alan. Ron is a petty thief and a promiscuous bisexual (he prefers women, but getting men is easier). His testimony, which dubiously exonerates himself, seals Alan’s fate, but he is young and rash rather than malign or thuggish.

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John Smith - Keith Bollands

. Late 40s-early 60s. Probably not his real name, this shadowy figure from MI5 exists to keep an eye on Alan, and is a very different authority figure to the genial Ross. A small role (just two scenes), Smith represents the disapproval and immense power of the establishment. Good character role.

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Dillwyn Knox - Wally Walters

50s/60s. Head of the codebreaking unit at Bletchley Park, Knox is Alan’s boss during the key war years. A classical scholar, he sits uneasily between academia and the civil service and his avuncular and rather scatty demeanour, well out of its depth in mathematics and cryptography, hides a highly experienced and effective leader - acting as a buffer between the eccentric scientists and the political establishment. One of his two major scenes sees him admonishing Alan for too openly chasing the boys at work – though ironically we learn that he too had had gay lovers.

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Pat(tricia) Green - Linda Russell

. 30s. Three scenes. Attractive, delightful, clever, ‘normal’ young woman, Pat is another mathematician who works with Alan at Bletchley. She falls in love with him despite his eccentricities. Alan knows it, but cannot reciprocate. But they are great friends for a while. She ends up marrying someone else and Alan reflects on whether he should have approached his life more conventionally.

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Nikos - Andrew Ionides

18-25. A beautiful young Greek man that Alan has a short fling with on holiday late in his life. Just one scene late in the play, Nikos speaks no English but a fair bit of Greek!! Are you, or do you know, just the person??

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Director - Mark Humble

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Stage Manager - Clare Pinnock

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Set Design and Construction - John Godliman

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Christine Bates

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Nick Lund

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Anne Nunn

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Clare Pinnock

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Adam Roberts

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Linda Russell

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Ian Thomas

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Liz Thomas

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Sound design - Mark Humble

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Sound design / operation - Ian Santry

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Lighting - Bill Payne

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Wardrobe - Pauline Walters

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Set Construction (Assisted) - Gareth Woodford

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Photography - Alan Bostock (www.photoeyes.biz)