Review: Breaking the Code
GEORGE JOHNSTON was left provoked, if a little exhausted after a play ‘tells more than just the story of Alan Turing, a genius who according to Winston Churchill made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in WW2.’
Tuesday 13th – Saturday 17th April. 7.45 pm at ADC Theatre. £7-10.
Directed by Pat Hamilton.
Breaking the Code is a play that tells more than just the story of Alan Turing, a genius who according to Winston Churchill made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in WW2. It portrays a social and political climate of post-war Britain that, in its treatment of homosexuality as a criminal offence that quite literally brings the lead character to court, seems almost ridiculous to us twenty first century liberalists.
The Combined Actors of Cambridge put on entertaining and engaging show, let down by production mistakes. The play attempts to move forwards and backwards through Alan Turing's life and although it is helped in this by a minimal set, where letters and codes scrawled on the walls give the impression we are sitting in an insane asylum from A Beautiful Mind. Turing is a man who in many ways has never grown up. With one actor playing teen Turing and him as a grown man it was difficult to distinguish between the two. A useful 'Scenes and Settings' Guide in the programme suggests the crew never hoped we would undersatnd.
James Dowson’s performance as Alan Turing is incredibly captivating as a stuttering man with no capacity for public speaking. His unabashed enthusiasm for mathematics together with his academic distain for typical social conventions is often comic and never feels forced or caricatured. Colin McLean's Manchester policeman 'Ross' could have been a little more engaged about taking it upon himself to charge Turing for 'gross-indecency'. Arguably the best scene is between Turing and Knox, his superior at Bletchley Park where Knox (Peter Simmons), tries to explain to Turing that his colleagues’ reactions would be anger, disgust and fear to outward signs of homosexuality. It really did make me think about homophobia in a different way.
At just under three hours including an interval the production does start to drag and some scenes could have been cut altogether, particularly one in which line-prompting was audible to this reviewer sitting half way back the auditorium. An overly optimistic bout of clapping from the audience when the curtain went down after the penultimate scene suggested I wasn’t the only one with my coat on my lap. However, all in all, the acting was of a high standard, the plot interesting enough, and like all good drama, I left the ADC with something to think about.