My daughter and I have just taken a quick trip to Salisbury Playhouse to see their new production of Hugh Whitemore’s play on the life, work and death of Alan Turing “Breaking The Code”. Originally starring Derek Jacobi when I saw it in 1986 before he later repeated the role in a television version in 1996. Benedict Cummerbach later played the legendary mathematician and code breaker in a rather more Hollywood reading in The Imitation Game. Last night’s packed first preview rightly clapped to the rafters Edward Bennett’s portrayal of this gentle, considered, world changing, number loving, homosexual as he is caught up first in world events in World War 2 and then in illegal honesty in the early 50s.
The production was directed by Christian Durham and designed by James Button with Chris Davey and Michael Scott creating powerful supporting lighting and sound designs. It was a really classy conception supported by a fine cast of highly experienced players. It is a wonderfully crafted play which avoids preaching or digging too hard. In just telling us the story it becomes even more extraordinary that such amazing things came from this man’s brain and teamwork, and that such pain could be perpetrated in the name of the law. If you don’t know the story, don’t research, just go and allow it to unfold.
The theatre was immensely welcoming. It was great to see the cast unwinding after their first preview and know that, with the two tweek rehearsal sessions, some good sleep for everyone, and one more Preview they will be ready for a fully standing ovation on Tuesday.
So pleased to see the play again. So pleased to see it with my daughter through her Stonewall perspective on how much has changed for homosexuals in England (to stay with the period word) but how so much has still to be done by those who fight for equality with the LGBTQ+ community. It is fitting that Alan Turing will grace the £50 banknote from 2021, but don’t wait till then to see Edward Bennett’s performance because this run finishes on 26th October. I do hope some other theatres and managements see it and decide to give it a longer life.
Congratulations to the whole company and to Gareth Machin and Sebastian Warrack for programming this play as part of a fascinating a rich Autumn season.