IN 1983 Andrew Hodges, now a Maths Fellow at Wadham, wrote a cleverly titled book, Alan Turing — The Enigma.

Three years later, playwright Hugh Whitemore, adapted it, equally subtly, as Breaking The Code, with much success — Derek Jacobi playing Turing, the tortured, brilliant mathematician turned Bletchley code-breaker, in both the West End and on Broadway.

Next Tuesday, the Oxford Theatre Guild takes over the theatre at the Old Fire Station for the first full-week run the venue has hosted in its new guise.

2012 sees the hundredth anniversary of Turing’s birth and celebrations already began a few weeks ago with a major TV docudrama. For this Guild production, the mantle of the leading role — he’s on stage virtually throughout — falls on Joseph Kenneway, who summed the character up for me: “On the one hand he’s operating on a very mental plane – absorbed in the world of logic and abstract mathematical concepts – but then he’s also a physical creature, reaching out for human contact and affection, something hard for him to engage with because of that his other side that was so focused, so literal”.

Jacobi worried initially that maths would “kill the play stone-dead” and Kenneway understands that: “One of the challenges of the part is trying to make that accessible. It is essential to convey the feeling of just how innovative Turing’s thinking was: the second half of the play starts with a six-minute mathematical monologue!

“When I did A-Levels, I studied English, maths and further maths — that didn’t take me anywhere near where Turing was operating, but I’ve always appreciated situations which are both creative and where there is a right answer”.

Crucially, Breaking The Code is not a mere biographical study of Alan Turing, but something more universal: a look at an outsider, a person who finds it hard to communicate — not least because of the mores of an era when homosexuality was still illegal. Turing was arrested and endured sex drug therapy, eventually taking his own life aged 42. As Whitemore wrote, he was “a man who served the state and then was destroyed by the state”.

Directing this OTG production is Kevin Elliott, who finds this angle especially tragic: “What should have been a reward for what he did at Bletchley became a punishment.

“It’s a complete reversal: the man should have been given a knighthood and ends up being chemically castrated. People will say that it was wrong thousands of years from now and it’s the elemental nature of that wrongness that attracted me from a dramatic point of view”.

I wondered what Elliott thinks is the best adjective to describe Alan Turing: brave, driven, tormented?

“Eccentric, I think. Non-conformist, brave, certainly, and also assured: he ploughed his own furrow, followed his own path in research and mathematical thought — knowing that he was doing things that would lead to excellence — and not being discouraged by people telling him, ‘No, it can’t be done’”. What Turing was rapidly moving towards before his untimely death was, of course, the concept of the computer. Elliott hasn’t changed one word of the original script and says that each time he’s been rehearsing it with the Theatre Guild actors, more and more depth comes out — he also agrees with something Hugh Whitemore has written since, that the play can succeed “without asking the audience to leave their brains with their hats in the cloak room when they enter a theatre”.

There’s an extraordinary pay-off to the story of the play’s success back in the ‘80s: Whitemore relates how he received a call from a Hollywood producer, offering a very large sum for the film rights. Untold riches beckoned, but: “Just two things: I don’t want this guy to be a faggot, and for God’s sake cut out all the mathematics!”

What an interesting film those changes wouldn’t have made. No danger of the Oxford Theatre Guild having had any such impulses.