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Play Produced

BREAKING THE CODE by Hugh Whitemore based on the book "Alan Turing, The Enigma" by Andrew Hodges, Jack Marples discusses his production Jor Stockport Garrick Theatre UHEAKING lliE: CODE Is an ac­ count of thc life of Alan Turing, the brilliant mathcmatician and

and that a composite set with disciplined lighting would en­ sure a smooth and calculated flow from one scene to another, Furniture would have to bc multi-purpose and neutral throughout the action, Simplic­ Ity and directness wcre the key­ words not only In the selling but in the whole approach to the play, Every Inch of available space was utlliS<.'Cl; the prosce­ nium arch and front labs were dispcnsed with giving maximum playing areas for the scvcntccn c hangcs of sccne. Halfway

SKETCH PLAN · · "/"1

father of the modcrn computcr, bcautifully adapted by Hugh Whitcmorc from the book by Alan Hodges. This controversial drama traccs not only his carcer but Turing'o private life and his clashcs with convcntion as he attcmpts to reconcilc his homo­ sexual naturc with Soclcty's laws. Thc play Is In scvcnteen scenes and is set in various locales, and it offers thc chancc to play somc Intercsting roles. The main character of Alan Turing Is on stage during the entire action , It is a tour de force for any actor with some long and Involved speeches.

Setting The action of the play covers a considcrable range of locale, I.e. a pub, Turing's house In Wilmslow, Sara Turing's house at Gulldford, Bletchley Park, a police slation. a park. a garden and an apartment In Corfu . The period of the play Is also wide ranging from 1926 to 1954, It was clear from the start that I could not rely on realistic setting

Amateur Stage May 1990

across the cyclorama we had an Interesl1ng lattice design sug­ gesting In computer language. an acrodrome (a key symbol throughout the play) and a land­ scapc. The rest of thc area In front of the cyclorama was left open to facllilate the use of gobos for various effects to be supcr-lmpost.-d upon the sky­ scape. As this was an opcn set. It was essential to create some Interest beforc tbe play com­ menc<.-d and computer sign lan-

guage was projected on to the cyclorama to set the mood and theme of the play. Apart from the curved whitewalls on either side down-slage and the outline of the two doors. the flats floor. and furniture were painted black. This accentuated the "memory" feel of the action and helped in

eutling down lighting spillage Into the other non-playing ar­ eas, By explanation and referring to the stage-plan. Bletehley Park was played in Area E. and the police slation at Wtlmslow in Area C, Sara's house at Guild­ ford. Alan's house at Wtlmslow and the apartment in Corfu were played in Area B. The Manches­ ter pub and Sara's garden in Area A. The park. London and all of Alan's monologues In Area D. Properties were at a minimum and no attempt was made to "dress" any of the areas. Hand properties were set before the slart of each act. I.e. Telephones (Act one) Wine and glasses (Act two) and a Wireless In the Corfu scene. There was a templal10n to anchor the period of each scene and Its locale by sullable properties but this would have defeated the object of the conPAGE 14

stant time flow from one scene to another. In any event the dia­ logue at the begtnnulg of each scene finnly establishes the 10­ eatlon and period without anY visual trtmm1ngs.

Lighting The lighting had to be meticu­ lously and carefully designed so that each area became Isolated from the rest. I decided that when Alan moves from one scene to the next he should be seen so doing. He. In fact. should jol11 each new scene artd be drawn Into the action of that particular section. To close each scene on a blackout and to manoeuvre Alan Into a new position before the lighting of the new scene seemed to me to be too episodic and could easily destroy the flow of the action. Effective gobos were used. i.e. foliage In the garden and park scenes. and a slatted window blind effect In the scene 111 Corfu. The cyclorama was put to full use with steely grey for the win­ try scenes In Manchester and a soft blue for sununer scenes. I arranged for various spots to be used 111 various areas to accen­ tuate monologues and thc first transition Into flashbacks after Act 1. Scene I. The Indlvtdual spot In Area D I found useful In Alan's address to his old school In Act 2, and the eatl11g of the poisoned apple at the end of the play.

WTap over towel.

Direction The play Is based on fact and It was essential that I read and studied the play In tandem with the excellent <:ietall from Andrew Hodges' book. This gave an In­ valuable background to Alan Turing's life and presented me with various clues as to charac­ terisation, motlvatfon and ap­ pearance of the charactcrs In the play. I prepared a detalled sequence of Alan's Itfe for all concerned with the play so that everyone, particularly the cast, was aware of the date and period of each scene, the ages of the character being played and their niche In Alan's life. I found It essential to treat each single scene as a one act play ensuring that pace and climax wcre bal­ anced. Then I had to blend all these Individual scenes into a whole and so placc and climax the whole play. I becamc an orchestrater pitching and moulding the various perfonn­ ances Into a complete picture, Whittling and accentuating the timing and the levcl of perfonn­ ance Into a wcll balanced and well Integrated completeness. Alan's Incredibly long specchcs necded to be paccd and the high mathematics, and computcr discourses made Intcresting' and acceptable to all sections of the audience. With Its promf­ nent theme of Alan's homosexu ­


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throughout this scene, and I had thc lines spoken and taped in the correct acccnt to assist the actor In his portrayal of the character. I arranged twe nty­ four rehcarsals which were sec­ tionalised so that smaller parts wcre not called to every re­ hearsal during the p re liminary plotting and haracterisation sessions. I had to ensurc that the actors we re aware of al l Ii ht­ Ing positions and changcs of lighting at an early stage in the rehcarsal pcriod. I had two full technical rehearsals and two fu ll dress rehearsals to ensurc as smooth and as clTc..'Ctivc an Intcr­

pretation as possible. Thc initial sei<.''C tion of the play gave rise to some doubts as to aud ie nce a tte n d a nce bccause of t he h o mosex ual th e me runnin g parallel with the tabling of Alan's chleve mcnts in the mathemati­ cal world, but how wrong we were, We were almost to ca pac­ ity for the run of sevcn nights with all sections of the a udience bcing gripped and intrigued by this brilliant play. As direc tor it gave me great pleasurc to assist in thc presc n tation of such a re­ warding play, it was a fulfilling experiencc for us al l a nd one to be remembered. 0

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Wardrobe, Alan should remain throughout the play In the same c~stume (Worn out shabby sports coat, shirt, tie, pullover and baggy trousers) except when he ap­ pears 111 singlet and shorts at the end of Act one. Other costumes should be In the period of the scene.... Sara, the twenties, for­ ties and fifties; Pat Green, forties and fifties. SUits for the men should be .In period and Nikos, :he Greek boy. m Act two wore a , mateur Stage May 1990

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allty this side of the play needs handling with a certain amount of delicacy and the Ron Miller scenes and the Corfu scenes need particular attention. I IIgh tened the mood of the scencs and their content by under­ stressing certain values and mtroduced some humour Into these, particularly In thc scene with Nlkos the Greek boy, be­ cause It Is at this point In the play that Alan Is at his happiest. Nlkos speaks In modern Greek

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Breaking The Code - May 1990  

Jack Marples discusses his production of Breaking The Code by Hugh Whitemore for the Stockport Garrick Theatre. Breaking The Code is based o...

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