Breaking the Code

Written by Hugh Whitemore

Thursday 17th to Saturday 19th, and Wednesday 23rd to Saturday 26th September 2015

Directed by Alan Ward

AuthorHugh Whitemore

Hugh Whitemore

Hugh Whitemore is an English playwright and screenwriter. He was born on 16th June 1936 in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

Whitemore studied for the stage at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he is now a Member of the Council. He began his writing career in British television with both original teleplays and adaptations of classic works by Charles Dickens, W. Somerset Maugham, Daphne du Maurier, and Charlotte Bronte, among others, and twice won a Writers' Guild of Great Britain award. His work for American TV includes Concealed Enemies, about the Alger Hiss case, and The Gathering Storm, which focused on a troubled period in the marriage of Clementine and Winston Churchill just prior to World War II. He won an Emmy Award for each. He also was nominated for his adaptation of the Carl Bernstein/Bob Woodward book about President Nixon, The Final Days. His most recent teleplays were My House in Umbria (2003), an adaptation of the novella by William Trevor starring Maggie Smith and Into the Storm (2009). He also wrote the episode, Horrible Conspiracies, for the 1971 BBC series, Elizabeth R.

Whitemore's film credits include: Man at the Top (1973), All Creatures Great and Small (1975), The Blue Bird (1976), The Return of the Soldier (1982), 84 Charing Cross Road (1987), and Utz (1992).

The plots of Whitemore's plays frequently focus on historical figures. Stevie (1977) centred on the life of English poet and novelist Stevie Smith and Pack of Lies (1983) covered events leading up to the arrest of the Krogers, two Americans spying for the Russians, in London in 1961.

Whitemore's best known work taking the form of a staged biography is Breaking the Code (1986) which is centered on Alan Turing, who was responsible for cracking the German Enigma code during World War II and resisted an adherence to the English code of sexual discretion with his homosexuality, for which he was charged with gross indecency. This work was adapted as a television film in 1996.

The Best of Friends (1987), was about the friendship Dame Laurentia McLachlan, the Abbess of Stanbrook Abbey in Worcestershire, shared with George Bernard Shaw and Sydney Cockerell, director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. His most recent was As You Desire Me, a 2005 adaptation of the play by Luigi Pirandello.

Whitemore is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an Honorary Fellow of King's College, London.

Andrew Hodges

Andrew Hodges (born 1949) is a British mathematician and author.

Hodges was born in London. Since the early 1970s, Hodges has worked on twistor theory, which is the approach to the problems of fundamental physics pioneered by Roger Penrose.

Hodges is best known as the author of Alan Turing: The Enigma, the story of the British computer pioneer and code breaker Alan Turing. The book was chosen by Michael Holroyd as part of a list of 50 'essential' books (that were currently available in print) in The Guardian, 1 June 2002.

Alan Turing: The Enigma formed the basis of Hugh Whitemore's 1986 stage play Breaking the Code, which was adapted by for Television in 1996, with Derek Jacobi as Turing. The book was later made into the 2014 film The Imitation Game directed by Morten Tyldum, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing. The script for The Imitation Game won Graham Moore an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 87th Academy Awards in 2015.

Hodges is also the author of works that popularize science and mathematics.

He is a Tutorial Fellow in mathematics at Wadham College, Oxford University. Having taught at Wadham since 1986, Hodges was elected a Fellow in 2007, and was appointed Dean from start of the 2011/2012 academic year.

PlayBreaking the Code

(Based on the book 'Alan Turing - The Enigma' by Andrew Hodges). The play tells the story of Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician, who devised the means of cracking the German Enigma code during his time at Bletchley Park which helped win World War 11.

Meanwhile, he also 'broke the code'by being unapologetically homosexual at a time when homosexuality was illegal in Great Britain. He was sentenced to undergo a series of treatments which involved chemical castration. This play is about who he was, what happened to him and why.

The Bench Production

Breaking the Code poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.


Alan TuringJonathan Abbott
Mick RossPete Woodward
Sara TuringSally Hartley
Ron MillerChris Vanstone
Dillwyn KnoxTerry Smyth
Pat GreenClaire Lyne
John SmithAlan Welton
Christopher MorcomPeter Ashdown
NikosPeter Ashdown


Director Alan Ward
Producers Alan and Marion Ward
Stage Manager Marion Ward
Assistant Stage Manager Phillippa Thorne
Lighting Design Phil Hanley
Sound Design Jacquie Penrose
Lighting Operation Phil Hanley
Sound Operation Phil Hanley
Set Design David Penrose and Pete Woodward
Costumes Judith Smyth
Programme Derek Callam
Front of House Megan Green
Photography Dan Finch

Director's Notes

When I start thinking about the next play I would like to direct, I normally begin with productions I have seen in the past, be they professional or amateur, plays I may have appeared in myself some while ago, or just scanning through my home library of plays. However, on this occasion it has been a completely new approach. Marion, my wife and incredibly efficient stage manager, encouraged me to seek out and direct a play I had never been in, seen or read. The idea grew on me and before I knew it I was looking for something fresh to inspire me.

It was about then I also started thinking about the playwright Hugh Whitemore and how much I had become a fan of his writing, especially after seeing productions such as 'The Last Cigarette' and 'A Marvellous Year For Plums' at the Chichester Festival Theatre. Looking at the list of his plays, I first came across 'Pack of Lies' but realised I had already seen that sometime in the early eighties, so that didn't fit in with my search. Then, there it was - 'Breaking the Code - the Alan Turing Story'. As a lover of biopics and true stories it was screaming at me. So I purchased it, read it, was enthralled by it, pitched it to the membership, gathered a talented, enthusiastic cast with a hard-working, committed crew and here we are a year down the line with it in production!

In the last year I have done a lot of research and reading about Turing, his time at Bletchley Park and his work on the Enigma machine. I went to see the film about Turing - 'The Imitation Game' - and as much as I enjoyed it, the thing I admire most about this play is the way it delves a lot deeper into Turing's private life. In my opinion, Whitemore successfully delivers an accurate reflection of the narrow-minded attitudes of the post WW2 era and captures the catastrophic effect it had on a truly brilliant man.

I sincerely hope you leave the theatre tonight not only entertained but well informed and with a greater understanding of the whole Turing legacy.

Alan Ward


The NewsJames George

The Bench's topical choice for its latest stint at The Spring is Hugh Whitemore's Breaking The Code - the story of Alan Turing, his homosexuality and his contribution to Bletchley Park and artificial intelligence.

Playing on a pared-down set - three tables set on three levels - the play looks a treat.

Much good work comes from the supporting players, here, with Chris Vanstone and Alan Welton giving the most realistic performances among the men and Sally Hartley as Turing's mother striking a lovely balance between mayhem and misery.

The central performance from Bench newcomer - and relative newcomer to acting - Jonathan Abbott is clearly worth admiration. Turing is rarely off the stage and Abbott is confident with the dialogue and does a very convincing stammer, but this Turing is a humourless creation that would benefit from a more creative approach to the man's thought processes.

James George, The News, 19th September 2015

RemotegoatJill Lawrie

Hugh Whitemore's best known work "Breaking the Code" was first performed in 1986 and subsequently played on Broadway the following year. His plays often centre on historical figures and this is no exception focusing on the eccentric genius Alan Turing and based on the book by mathematician Andrew Hodges - "Alan Turing, the Enigma".

In the 80's Derek Jacobi was outstanding as Alan Turing starring in both the West End and on Broadway, and last years hugely successful film "The Imitation Game" saw Benedict Cumberbatch as the pioneering logician, picking up an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Alan Mathison Turing was a ground-breaking mathematical biologist and his Turing machine led to the development of the computer. During the Second World War, while working at Bletchley Park, he played a pivotal role in cracking the Nazi's Enigma Code and thus shortened the war and saved many many lives. But in post war Britain he had the misfortune to fall victim to cruel narrow-minded stuffiness and homophobia and was convicted of gross indecency which led ultimately to him taking his own life.

This honest and compassionate drama is both intellectually and physically challenging for Director Alan Ward but despite the obvious space restrictions, the staging adapted to portray 8 different locations and the talented cast coped well with the scientific demands of this biographical piece.

There was strong support from some of the minor characters namely Peter Woodward playing the Detective Sergeant Mick Ross and Chris Vanstone (Ron Miller) the young man whom Turing had an affair with. Newcomer Peter Ashdown, initially played Christopher Morcom, Alan's first school crush and then impressed as the Greek Nikos. Claire Lyne gave a warm sensitive performance as Turing's Bletchley colleague Pat Green, a brilliant mathematician whose unrequited love for him went virtually unnoticed. Sally Hartley (Turing's mother) grew into her role and improved as the story unfolded and she finally emotionally connected with her son.

However the play belonged to Jonathan Abbott for his heroic marathon, on stage throughout - a remarkable emotional achievement. Making his debut with Bench Theatre he was in character from the outset - awkward, anti social and with a nervous stammer, yet passionate in his delivery of analogies, ciphers, codes and scientific problems, keenly explaining that the brain is like grey porridge and a fir cone mimics the Fibonacci sequence of numbering!

The play with its long analytical monologues, was slightly too long at two and half hours with a consequent lack of energy at times, but overall this powerful theatrical work was brought to life and highlighted the brutal, inhuman drug treatment forced on Turing to keep him out of jail. A predicament he was finally unable to bear.

Remotegoat, Jill Lawrie, September 2015

Production Photographs