I am one of what must be a small number of people who have neither read nor seen a film version of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. The recent run at York Theatre Royal, which is soon to go on tour, proves its popularity today, with sell out shows and rapturous applause. Damien Cruden’s direction of a cast of 21 and Liam Doona’s design combine to make an interesting and exciting adaptation which never loses pace.
The inclusion of an older Scout, played with verve by Jacqueline Wood, narrating her memories with hindsight was a welcome addition and helped the story to flow without confusion. In modern dress, she didn’t overpower or clutter any scene, yet still managed to make her presence felt. Grace Rowe, who played her younger self was, however, the production’s greatest asset. Appearing in almost every scene, she managed to depict a playful yet wise-before-her-time girl with ease and flair. Scout’s wide eyed enthusiasm, inquisitiveness and her strong sense of justice were never overplayed. Credit must also go to the other two actors playing children (Matthew Pattimore as Jem and Graeme Dalling as Dill); the relationship seemed genuine and was enjoyable to watch.
The main scene in which the three took a back seat was naturally the trial scene and while the play lost movement here, it was where the emotional heart of the piece could be found. Although my position in the stalls meant that I couldn’t see half of the ensemble and their reactions, it was Cornelius Macarthy as the wrongly accused Tom Robinson who quietly stole the scene. A picture of self-control and reserve, it made it even more despicable that his character could meet the fate he did.
Duncan Preston (Atticus Finch) of Dinnerladies and Emmerdale fame, is the face on the posters, but he is not the star. The story is the star and I recommend you catch the tour to either remind yourself of it or, like me, to be introduced to it in the most brilliant and thought provoking way.
To Kill A Mockingbird was at The York Theatre Royal 11-26 February and is touring with Touring Consortium Theatre Company (dates can be found here http://www.touringconsortium.com/whats-on/to-kill-a-mockingbird/)