Breaking the Code – and other barriers

All of us involved in the Bromley Buzz podcast love the arts in one form or another, from The Jersey Boys (Sarah) to figure skating (Zeenat), to The Lament for Icarus by Draper (Darren), to Comicon (Tim). So much more that is uplifting and beautiful and that makes life worth living could be added.

Breaking the Code at Bromley Little Theatre, which runs until 9th July during the Bromley Arts Festival, is just as worthy of love, being a fine piece of theatre, but emotionally it is vexing as it reflects so painfully on the way some people were treated during a period of history that we have not moved fully away from. The theatre website describes it in these words, “Last performed at BLT in 1991, this compassionate play is the story of Alan Turing, mathematician and father of computer science. Turing ‘broke the code’ in two ways: he cracked the German Enigma code during World War II and also shattered the English code of sexual discretion with his homosexuality. A compelling piece of modern theatre that has certainly stood the test of time.”

Kerrin Roberts in the lead role brilliantly conveyed both Turing’s passion and the tunnel vision that changed history and made him sadly vulnerable to an establishment that used his vision, then condemned his lifestyle. Charlie D’Imperio as the slippery Ron Miller, one of Turing’s partners, the suitably soulless policeman Mick Ross (Giles Tebbitts) and Paul Ackroyd as Dillwyn Knox stood out in a strong cast that brought out the best of what is a remarkable story.

We could talk more about the simple set that was frequently re-shuffled to good effect, the wonderful opening to the second half, and the Desdemona-like conclusion for Turing, but we won’t. What we will talk about is respect. Respect for the play, for the performance, and for its importance. What happened to Turing was very recent in historical terms. The law has changed, but how far has society moved on? When it is a surprise and a celebration when an isolated famous LGBTQ+ person ‘comes out’ in sport, have we really moved on so much? Are the pressures that tortured Turing – who experienced chemical castration – so well resolved now? Perhaps doubt about the extent of that resolution reinforces why this play is one where anger might be for some the dominant emotion as the play concludes.

Yet that is part of the beauty of the arts. Their ability to evoke negative emotions which spark constructive thinking can often be an engine for positive change, a force for good, as this play can be viewed. This was a great choice of play to put on in the 50th year of Pride, a celebration Turing did not live to see, although he should have. Pride events continue across the UK and can be viewed here. Tickets to Breaking the Code are here.

You can listen to a full interview with the Bromley Little Theatre here and learn about LGBTQ+ services in Bromley here.

Darren Weale, 6th July 2022

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