A genius with a guilty secret

BRILLIANT mathematician and computer pioneer Alan Turing was the prime mover in the Bletchley Park team which cracked Germany's World War Two Enigma code, making available valuable information about the enemy's U-boat activities in the Atlantic. Churchill declared him a principal architect of the Allies' victory, and decorated him. But Turing broke another code, too: the gentlemanly English code of discretion over sexual matters. He was homosexual, and didn't disguise it. Then came arrest for gross indecency, imprisonment, forced taking of oestrogen and ultimately his suicide by eating a poisoned apple. He was only 42.

Hugh Whitemore's splendid and continually riveting play is based on the biography by Alan Hodges, and probes the enigma of this immensely clever but self-destructive man.

In 1952, Turing reported a burglary: the repercussions led to his downfall. The play shifts back and forth in time searching for a connection between the double breaking of codes, and examining questions of patriotism and hypocrisy. We see Turing as schoolboy, at Bletchley, with his mother, lecturing at his old school, picking up sexual partners and at Manchester University, working on an electronic brain.

Sometimes Phil Rayner's leisurely direction allows the tension to slacken, but performances hold the attention. On stage virtually all the time, Peter Dann draws a sensitive and compelling portrait of Turing. Memorable are Meg Morris as his bewildered mother, Phil Rayner as the senior codebreaker at Bletchley, Kath Harvey as the scientist who wants to .marry him and John Lawrey as the policeman whose interrogation frames the evening. In the cameo role of government official John Smith, Clive Lovett injects pace, and fine support comes from Nic Early, Gareth Jeffries and Alex Bishop.

This is the tragedy of a complex man who could solve scientific problems, but not the enigma of his own life.

REVIEW Bill Stone

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