Monday, June 24, 2013

To Kill a Mockingbird Review

To Kill a Mockingbird
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, London

Two years after seeing a fantastic production of Crazy for You, it is delight to see that Regent's Park Open Air Theatre is still making quality productions. This time round they are producing an adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. The events of the story are told from the point of view of Scout, the daughter of widower and lawyer, Atticus Finch (Robert Sean Leonard). The three children I saw were Izzy Lee as Scout, Adam Scotland as her brother Jem, and Ewan Harris as their friend Dill and what a joy they were. The three are energetic, mischievous, noble and innocent as they go on their many adventures. At the same time they show the characters growing up as they come to understand the world around them.

Another stand out performance is Robert Sean Leonard as Atticus Finch. Affectionate yet always has a word of advice for the kids, he stands out as the kindly voice of reason of the book. Atticus is appointed to defend a black man named Tom Robinson, who has been accused of rape. Despite disapproval he agrees to this difficult task, and a lot of the second half is taken up by the trial. He portrays the calm and controlled lawyer who cleverly tears apart the accusations during the courtroom scene, before performing the concluding speech with gravitas and resolution.

Other performances worth recognising are Simon Gregor and Rona Morison as Bob and Mayella Ewell. Under the grasp of her despicable drunken husband, Mayella gives a chilling cry to lynch Tom when under pressure to tell the truth. Richie Campbell as the accused Tom Robinson portrays an innocent man who is petrified at the prospect of lynching as he tries to give his testimony, yet clinging onto what dignity he has left.

The production could be described as subdued. It relies on the acting to carry the production on what is an empty stage, apart from a single tree and the occasional prop that is brought on, which is a success. What is more, director Timothy Sheader has decided to convey the charm of the book further by having the ensemble read the first person narrative. This also draws in the audience, from which they first appear at the start of the production. At times there is a feeling that the audience is part of the action, especially when Atticus addresses his speech towards them, as though they are the jury.

Also, despite the blank stage the play sets imaginations flying from the start as the cast draws out a map of the street where Scout lives and during the play they stick to the geography of the setting, unless the play moves to another location. Like the book, the play appeals to our inner child when sharing the world that Scout and her friends live in.I liked the fact that the ensemble changed into modern clothing when reading the first person narrative, which gives a sense how everlasting the novel is. If I do take issue then it is the black backdrop. Based on production photos I take it that it is lit with different colors, but that is impossible to see during a Matinee.

Yet that is a minor issue for what is a superb adaptation of Harper Lee's beloved novel, all thanks to a fantastic cast. I would even say that having recently seen the film that I prefer this stage production. Go and see this at a Low Top Price.

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