By Katrina ffiske
RSC actor Edward Bennett has the daunting task of playing Alan Turing in Wiltshire Creative’s production of Hugh Whitemore’s, Breaking the Code, at Salisbury Playhouse. The compelling play tells of Turing’s heroic work breaking the German Code, Enigma, at Bletchely Park, and his betrayal by the nation when he was put on trial and publicly humiliated by the revelation of his sexuality.
Edward took time out to chat with me over his lunch break in between rehearsals. I wondered what it must be like to play Turing, who has been nominated the Ultimate Icon of the 20th Century?
“It’s a part I took on to see if I could do it or not,” Edward said. “It seems a monumental task. I’m on stage the whole time and I feel I’ve a responsibility to show Turing as he really was. I feel he would want me to show himself as he really was, warts and all. I want to enlighten people about this wonderful charismatic man. He was a very clever mathematician as well as being an extrovert. Did you know he was into am-dram, he used to be the centre of a party?”
“I read the biography his mother wrote which actually made the job more daunting. The whole cast visited Bletchely Park together, which was wonderful for getting to know the cast and experiencing the claustrophobic rooms where it all took place. The loyalty of the 9,000 people who worked there is quite extraordinary.”
As an RSC actor, Edward spends much of his time in London and Stratford-on-Avon, but he is pleased to return to Salisbury. “The Playhouse is where I cut my teeth acting in Invention of Love by Tom Stoppard, 15 years ago,” said Edward. “I discovered then what loyal audience members Salisbury has – they understand regional theatre, are intelligent and seem to know what they like. It was a tough play and people would stop me in the street to discuss the part. I find it a magic place and enjoy being back.
I’m looking forward to seeing the audience response to the play, which is staged in the round – a challenge for the director and us all. We have to think carefully how to act out the scenes so that we can be seen from all four sides.”
Breaking the Code, by Hugh Whitemore, directed by Christian Durham, also stars Caroline Harker, Hubert Burton and Louise Calf, who are presently playing in the outstanding production of Relatively Speaking, by Alan Ayckbourn. They play alongside Julian Firth, Joey Phillips, Ian Redford and Fraser Wilson.
October 5 to 26, tickets 01722 320333.