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Arts review: To Kill a Mockingbird

Arts review: To Kill a Mockingbird

We thought it would be entertaining to share some of New Stagers members’ reviews of recent productions they’ve seen in and around London.   This review from new member, Steph Kendrick, currently rehearsing for our July production of She Stoops to Conquer


To Kill a Mockingbird – 7th June 2013, Regent’s Open air Theatre

Everyone probably knows To Kill a Mockingbird.  It’s a standard work on the English Literature GCSE curriculum which means that thousands of children will have had all the joy, and half the meaning, sapped out of Harper Lee’s classic.

I never studied the book, indeed, I’ve never read it.  I knew it was about a trial set in the Deep South in the 30s about a black man accused of the rape of a white girl, but, other than that, I went in a blank sheet and not expecting anything beyond my own preconceptions of literature tropes.

I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone who had been hiding under that book-shaped rock with me but it is a compelling story, with themes of racism, prejudice and abuse.  What makes the play more touching, and possible less horrific, is that is told through the eyes of Scout Finch, 6 year old daughter of Atticus Finch, who is tasked with defending the accused, Tom Robinson.  As I wasn’t expecting the verdict, or what happened afterwards, I was sufficiently shaken by the time we left.

The set was highly minimalist, with the cast drawing out the map of the town on the floor in chalk which reinforced that what you were seeing was from a child’s perspective.  The few props also enabled the players to use the entirety of the stage and gave the play a dynamic and vibrant air.

The play had a cast of circa 20 people, all who played characters in the story, as well as narrating the plot directly from the book.  All the cast performed their parts admirably, slipping effortlessly from their own British and Irish accents as narrators to the deep Southern twang of their character(s).   However, special mention must go to the children of the cast.  Plays hinge on the believability of younger members of the cast and this is even more important when the two siblings, Scout and Jem, and their friend Dill are on stage for the entirety of the play.  All three were wonderful and to hear them repeat and react to the attitudes of the adults surrounding them brought home the absurdity of the times.  Special mention must also go to Robert Sean Leonard (better known in House and The Dead Poets’ Society) as Atticus Finch, the man battling with societal conventions to stay true to what he knows is right.

To Kill a Mockingbird is on at Regent’s Park Openair Theatre until the 15th June 2013, my suggestion would be to beg, steal or borrow to get a ticket.  And take the tissues.