IT’S an anti-racism play told to teenagers across the UK when they undertake their GCSEs and to finally see it on stage is a little underwhelming.
Moments of To Kill A Mockingbird leave my hairs standing on end, especially when Scout takes on her racist neighbours with total innocence, but having her brother and Dill help narrate the story takes away from the play overall.
Harper Lee’s tale of childhood innocence sees Scout encounter racism when her lawyer father Atticus (Rafe Spall) defends a black man accused of raping a white woman in a trial that he simply will not win.
Something that is not massively far from the current day situations we’ve seen play out in America and closer to home.
Spall is wonderful as Atticus. He plays the empathetic father struggling to raise his children under his own values.
Meanwhile, he battles against the town his family has lived in for generations to defend Tom Robinson in a trial he stands no chance of winning.
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The fatherly tenderness he shows to his kids Jem (Harry Redding) and Scout (Gwyneth Keyworth) feels realistic as does his agony when Jem is attacked at the end.
Keyworth makes an excellent Scout but her wonderful character’s innocence is tarnished by her brother and Charles Baker Harris, aka Dill, helping to tell the story.
The beauty of the original novel, her naivety in the face of hatred, is somewhat lost by the two older boys narrating.
While I understand it was done to benefit the flow of the production, I cannot forgive the choice to move away from the classic novel’s plot.
The play’s villain Bob Ewell (Patrick O’Kane) is wonderfully vile, although at times in the courtroom his rapid head bobbing makes him look a little like a deranged chicken.
O’Kane’s threats as Ewell are chilling and his stare made me flinch, while his daughter Myella (Poppy Lee Friar) was completely spineless and perfectly hateful.
Friar manages to move between being traumatised by her father and remorseful to being abusive and spouting racism in moments. She is mesmerising to watch.
David Moorst as Dill also distracts from the serious nature of the subject – almost trivialising traumatising moments in my opinion.
Saying that, he does embody the flamboyant character from the original novel and his scenes with Spall are heartbreaking, including when he comes clean about not knowing his father.
The final appearance of the mythical Boo Radley is somewhat lacking, especially as Harry Atwell already appears in the show playing Mr Cunningham.
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We get to see little time with the phantom figure and his presence is barely noticeable next to the hilarity of Scout’s Ham costume.
At two hours and 50 minutes the play is long and at times can feel a little heavy. If you’re a fan of the book or studying it, head to the theatre for a moving experience.
To Kill A Mocking Bird
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