While the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, creates some brilliant new work and adaptations of classics (their most recent production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya standing testament to my statement), it also plays host to some excellent touring productions. Currently in the Quarry Theatre is the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre production of Harper Lee’s classic 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel and directed by Timothy Sheader.

In case you don’t already know, To Kill a Mockingbird is set in a fictional town in America during the 1930s, and is told from the point of view of Scout Finch (Jemima Bennett), the daughter of lawyer Atticus Finch (Daniel Betts) and brother of Jem Finch (Harry Bennett). Her father defends the case of Tom Robinson (Zackary Momoh), a black man accused of raping Mayella Ewell (Victoria Bewick), a white woman and daughter of the town drunk Bob Ewell (Ryan Pope). The town can’t understand Atticus’s decision to defend Robinson, and many kids tease his children about it. During the case, it becomes clear that Tom Robinson didn’t rape Mayella at all, but he’s still convicted by the jury – an event in the novel that continues to resonate throughout our world today, along with the sense of heroism and duty that Atticus holds close to his heart in the face of racial injustice. In addition to this, Scout, Jem and their friend Dill (Leo Heller) fantasise about seeing the town recluse ‘Boo’ Radley finally come out of his house, and this sparks the second act of true heroism to emerge from the story.

This production of To Kill a Mockingbird is great; the main characters are pretty well developed, with Betts’s portrayal of Atticus Finch coming across as honest and just, while the whole company work well together as an ensemble to tell this timeless and classic story through theatrical means. Each of them assume different characters and read aloud different parts of the novel to vocalise Scout’s internal monologue at different points throughout.

One of my favourite moments in this piece is when the company work together to depict Jem being attacked (I won’t give too much away if you don’t know the story!). They lift him up and convey the action and suspense of the scene in a way that isn’t all that different from something you’d see in a classic Kneehigh or Complicite show. I also liked it when the company draw on the stage with chalk as they set up the world of the play, drawing us a map of the town and stimulating our imaginations further. Having said that, I can’t help but wish that there were more of these moments dotted throughout the piece – if the company made more extensive use of the ways you can employ theatre to tell a story and affect an audience, it would make the production even more memorable.

Despite this, To Kill a Mockingbird also boasts a well-designed set that doesn’t hinder the cast, but instead pushes to stimulate our imaginations and make us focus on Lee’s classic narrative. Simple pieces of furniture and changes in lighting transport us to the town’s different places, from the intimacy of Atticus’s home to the tense atmosphere of the courtroom.

This new production of To Kill a Mockingbird is well worth a watch. Whether you’re studying the novel in school or looking for a well-rounded bit of theatre, there’s definitely something here for you – and it’s a great way to experience the classic novel.

To Kill a Mockingbird is playing at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until 4 April. For more information and tickets, visit the West Yorkshire Playhouse website. Photo by Johan Persson.