Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird (1960) is one of the most widely discussed novels; dealing with racial inequality, violence and rape, it summarises a bleak time in American history. Countless essays and book reports have been written about this text, Robert Mulligan’s adaptation of the story into an Oscar winning film in 1962, and the fact that the play opened in York on 15 February and tours the UK until May, is a testament to this story’s enduring presence.
Assuming that many of you have read the book, and are familiar with the story, this adaptation sees the introduction of an older version of Jean Louise (also known as Scout) to tell the narrative. The juxtaposition of the older and younger Jean Louise creates a fluid timeline that transports the audience seamlessly back and forth between the present and the past. Director, Damian Cruden decided on this version because he felt it “accurately reflects the book, and without her voice [older Jean Louise] we lose some of the observation, and consequently, relevance that the older woman brings to the story.”
The most poignant scene is undoubtedly the courtroom scene, with Atticus defending the accused Tom Robinson. His conviction and passion for justice is compelling, and Duncan Preston’s performance excels. Throughout the play, Grace Rowe (younger Jean Louise) does a wonderful job capturing childhood innocence, which adds to the overriding message of the play and it’s notions of lost innocence.
The performance used film as a tool to explore nostalgia and perception and video was projected behind the actors, working particularly well to instigate memory. The set was constructed using unpainted wood and the colours and coarse nature of the structure are effective in evoking the dry and arid landscape of Alabama, where the story is set.
As a whole, the play was engaging, resulting in a fantastic adaptation of the book. To Kill A Mockingbird closes on Saturday 26 February at York Theatre Royal, but continues in 11 more venues across the country.
28 February – Southampton Mayflower Theatre
7 March – Cheltenham Everyman Theatre
15 March – Theatre Royal Nottingham
21 March – Bromley Churchill Theatre
28 March – Bradford Alhambra Theatre
4 April – New Victoria Theatre Woking
18 April – Theatre Royal Bath
25 April – Blackpool Grand Theatre
2 May – Richmond Theatre
9 May – Plymouth Theatre Royal
16 May – Wolverhampton Grand
Image: Scout (Grace Rowe). Photo Karl Andre Photography