Fringe Box



Stage Dragon: Breaking the Code – Electric Theatre

Published on: 21 Mar, 2024
Updated on: 21 Mar, 2024

By Tricia Marcotti

Most of us are well aware of Alan Turing’s role in cracking enemy codes during the war, providing invaluable intelligence to the Allied forces.

But the personal story of Alan Turing, whose parents came to Stoke Park here in Guildford after his father retired from the Indian Civil Service in 1927, is less well known

Alan Turing pictured in the garden of his parents’ house in Ennismore Avenue, Guildford.

Breaking the Code as much about his personal demons and the way in which he was treated by the establishment after the war as it is about breaking the Enigma code.

The Guildbury’s Theatre Company’s production of the Hugh Whitmore play, opened last night (Wednesday, March 20). It is the first time this play has been produced in Guildford since the original production starring Derek Jacobi ran here at the Yvonne Arnaud before transferring to the West End and Broadway in 1986/1987.

The set used some stationary dividers covered in notes and letters penned by Alan Turing to hide the different stage props for each scene. As each scene ended, the lights dimmed and the stagehands moved off the props and brought on the props for the next scene. It seemed to me that the number of props being changed was greater each time than those remaining. Kudos to the fast working stagehands.

But during the first half of the play, I was struggling to hear clearly most of the actors’ voices and at the interval, I asked a few others in the audience if they too were unable to make out what was being said. All agreed with me that the words were mumbled.

Fortunately, it seems someone must have communicated this to the cast, because the diction in the second half was much better. There were one or two little lapses, but on the whole, much better. The audience generally seemed happier and there was applause between the scenes.

In the role of Alan Turing, Oscar Heron gave a credible performance – especially after the interval.

Playing Alan as a child alongside Christopher Morcom (played by Dean Slade), brought a smile to my face as both Oscar and Dean captured the awkwardness of children being interrogated by a parent.

Detective Mike Ross (Stephen Liddle) interrogating Alan Turing (Oscar Heron). Photo Jonathan Constant

Eleanor Shaikh as Turing’s mother gave a performance that showed emotiona empathy police while Stephen Liddle’s performance as detective Mick Ross skilfully conveyed the sympathy he felt as a fellow human being.

Patricia Green (Lauren Phillipou) explaining the Enigma machine to Alan Turing. Photo Jonathan Constant

The Bletchley Park aspect of Alan Turing’s life was addressed by two characters: Mike Pennick as Dillwyn Knox (the Bletchley Park codebreaker and manager) and Lauren Phillipou as Patricia Green (based on Joan Clarke, one of Alan’s colleagues at Bletchley).

While not large parts, both Mike and Lauren helped to give us a flavour of life while working on the German codes.

Alan Turing with Ron Miller (Joe Hall). Photo Jonathan Constant

Joe Hall played Ron Miller, the co-accused in the case brought against Alan’s Turing under 1950s law on homosexuality who only received a suspended sentence.

Oliver Bruce (also the play’s director) played the part of John Smith, cleverly representing the shadowy and sinister role of government and the civil service. I felt threatened by his presence and I was only watching!

After the performance, the audience was able to view the replica of the Enigma machine used in both the play and the movie “Enigma”. I was impressed! So, if you fancy a story about a local hero, head on down to the Electric Theatre this week.

Breaking the code runs until Saturday March 23. Click here to book.


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