To Kill A Mockingbird
Written by Harper Lee
Adapted for stage by Christopher Sergel
New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham
I am always a little apprehensive when sitting down to watch a stage adaptation of a classic novel, and even somewhat anxious when it is something as close to my heart as Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. Many of my generation have grown up studying and loving this great novel, but this production is certainly a great testament to the brilliance of the timeless, masterful piece of fiction.
Set in 1930’s Alabama, the story follows Atticus Finch and his children, as he defends a black man wrongly accused of rape, despite knowing that the case will inevitably go against him. His morality leads him to at least teach his kids, and the village of Maycomb, that prejudice is unacceptable, especially when it comes to cases of the law.
This production has everything; inventive staging, an excellent cast – with original music wonderfully played and sung by Phil King – and lots of heart. The idea of having the actors step out of character to deliver pieces of the well known text is very fitting and adds a charm to the production, it brings back the joy of numerous generations who have read and enjoyed this novel.
The set, designed by Jon Bausor, lends itself to the openness of Maycomb and the large tree that inhabits the space, surrounded by a corrugated iron backdrop, creates a striking scene. The use of chalk drawings is a clever touch indeed, parts are added as the story moves along – however these are not entirely viewable from the stalls, and it would have been nice to have a clearer view of these.
Timothy Sheader’s direction is spot on. His work with the child actors, which takes a particular skill, really highlights his clever and precise work on this production. He creates some powerful and tender moments, never allowing the audience’s focus to drift and keeping us captivated at all times.
Daniel Betts gives us an acting masterclass as Atticus Finch, he adopts the ethereal quality of the courageous hero seemingly effortlessly. So detailed and subtle is his performance that he could not speak a word and we would still understand the character as he struggles with undeniable strain of the trial. Zackary Momoh also gives a stand out performance as Tom Robinson, his physicality of the cripple is spot on and the tender moments in the courtroom scene are enough to tug at anyone’s heartstrings.
I could not go without mentioning the children of the production. Rosie Bore, Billy Price and Milo Panni are all fantastic as Scout, Jem and Dill respectively. They are driving force behind the show, and through them we are allowed to see the world of Maycomb through the eyes of innocent children, as the novel intended.
A charming, deeply moving and highly compelling watch. For lovers of theatre, lovers of literature and particularly lovers of To Kill A Mockingbird this production is a must see.
This production tours the UK until 25th July 2015. For information on venues and tickets visit http://www.tokillamockingbirdplay.com/