To Kill a Mockingbird

February 9, 2015 | By | 1 Reply More

★★★★★     Exquisitely engrossing

King’s Theatre: Mon 9 – Sat 14 Feb 2015

Harper Lee’s tale of morality is one loved and read by generations. Translating To Kill a Mockingbird to the stage could have been problematic, but Timothy Sheader and Regent’s Park Theatre’s production is exquisitely charming and engrossing in equal measure.

Opening on steps added at the front of the stage, the assembled cast hold their various editions of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, and jointly begin to narrate.

Jemima Bennett (Scout), Daniel Betts (Atticus). Photo: Johan Persson

Jemima Bennett (Scout) and Daniel Betts (Atticus). Photo: Johan Persson

It’s an effective and emotive tribute to the text, with the cast’s differing accents a clever nod to the variation between readers. All readers are created equal, a theme continued throughout the story and paralleled neatly within Atticus Finch’s lesson on morality.

The narration also serves as a clever framing device for the story, with Christopher Sergel’s adaptation separating protagonist Scout’s thoughts and actions. The cast of 16 take it in turns to narrate Scout’s thoughts throughout, interspersed by the same cast acting out the drama in real time. It makes for utterly compelling viewing, adding an extra dimension of poignancy.

The story is well known. Set in the Deep South it tells a story of racial injustice in a small community in the early 1930s – the time of the Great Depression – where tensions and emotions are running high. To Kill a Mockingbird though is also a tale about growing up and accepting the world that exists outside of childhood; one of understanding, tolerance and acceptance.

The production begins with a wonderful, charming sense of innocence; a childhood full of hopscotch and climbing trees. The contemporary set is simple yet stunning, effectively recreating a childlike playground. Accompanied by the harmonica, guitar and a range of fitting sound effects, the atmosphere is pitched perfectly. As the first act progresses, the production leads into the sleepy South and its tortured past, building with intensity as the tension starts to form.

masterstroke

The cast is led by the Finch family, with strong performances from Jemima Bennett and Harry Bennett as the children Scout and Jem, Daniel Betts as their father, the lawyer Atticus Finch and Leo Heller as the visiting boy, Dill.

Harry Bennett (Jem), Leo Heller (Dill), Jemima Bennett (Scout). Photo Johan Persson

Harry Bennett (Jem), Leo Heller (Dill), Jemima Bennett (Scout). Photo Johan Persson

The casting and direction of child actors is a masterstroke. In particular, Jemima Bennett as Scout is exceptional, with the child actor delivering a stubborn, cheeky and forthright performance, complemented by her portrayal of understanding and acceptance as the character grows and the story progresses. Her final scenes with Boo Radley (Christopher Akrill) are testament to her maturity and versatility as an actor.

Betts too delivers a magnificent performance as the calm mannered, reasonable, gentlemanly moral compass. He creates a charming and sensitive dynamic between loving father and weary, but righteous, lawyer.

Where the opening act has a quiet subtlety, Act 2 transforms into a gripping and absorbing drama during the trial of the accused, Tom Robinson (Zackary Momoh). The court room scenes effectively portray the deep sense of injustice and Sheader’s production delivers a powerful climax that equally manages to disgust and captivate at the same time. It’s a rare combination to coordinate, but the production succeeds with a quiet grace.

Throughout the narration is ‘read’ from the cast’s individual copies of the novel, and it’s one of the reasons that this production works so well. It is more than just the telling of a great story, it’s the awareness and the recognition of the show’s origins and the meaning behind the story. As the production ends, the cast hold high their copies in a truly emotive final send-off.

Regent’s Park Theatre’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird is both harrowing and heart-warming; the emotional depth of the story cleverly accentuated and drawn out through innovative framing and outstanding acting. The only complaint is that, with its limited run, it is likely to sell out before it can be enjoyed by all.

Running time 2 hours 30 mins including interval
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Monday 9 – Saturday 14 February 2014
Evenings 7.30 pm, Matinees Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30 pm

Tickets and details from http://www.edtheatres.com/mockingbird

Buy the novel and script on Amazon:

To Kill A Mockingbird on tour:
9 – 14 Feb 2015 Edinburgh
King’s Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
16 – 21 Feb 2015 Aberdeen
His Majesty’s Theatre
01224 641122 Book online
23 – 28 Feb 2015 Nottingham
Theatre Royal
0115 989 5555 Book online
3 – 7 Mar 2015 Dartford
Orchard Theatre
01322 220000 Book online
10 – 14 Mar 2015 Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes Theatre
0844 871 7652 Book online
17 – 21 Mar 2015 Southamption
Mayflower
01280 711811 Book online
24 Mar – 4 Apr 2015 Leeds
West Yorkshire Playhouse
0113 213 7700 Book online
13 – 18 Apr 2015 Plymouth
Theatre Royal
01752 267222 Book online
20 – 25 Apr 2015 Newcastle
Theatre Royal
08448 11 21 21 Book online
27 Apr – 2 May 2015 Cheltenham
Everyman
01242 572573 Book online
4 – 9 May 2015 Dublin
Bord Gais Energy Theatre
0844 847 2455 Book online
12 – 16 May 2015 Richmond
Richmond Theatre
0844 871 7651 Book online
19 – 23 May 2015 Salford
The Lowry
0843 208 6000 Book online
24 Jun – 25 Jul 2015 London
Barbican
020 7638 8891 Book online

ENDS

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