Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

Daniel Betts as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. Pic: Comp
Daniel Betts as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. Pic: Comp
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CONSIDERING a ‘sequel’ to Harper Lee’s classic 1960 novel will be published this year, and taking into account Education Minister Michael Gove’s controversial dropping of the book from the English literature GCSE syllabus, it seems rather apt that Christopher Sergel’s adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird should return to the stage.

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An enduring tale about rape and racial inequality in 1930s Georgia, the first half of director Timothy Sheader’s vision, however, is more akin to the experimental theatre you might expect to see at the Traverse.

It opens with ‘everyday people’ reading excerpts from the novel - an invitation, if you will, to immerse yourself in the story. This unnecessary narration slows the actual theatre on-show, but if that isn’t distracting enough, the constant changing of costumes and character, always visible to the audience at the side of the stage, certainly is.

By contrast, the second half is far more traditional. The courtroom scenes, in which Atticus Finch (Daniel Betts) defends the unfairly accused Tom Robinson (Zackary Momoh) of rape despite knowing bigoted prejudice will prevail, is pure gold. Even though everyone in the room already knew the pre-determined outcome, a dramatic intake of breath was still met at the injustice of the jury’s verdict. We the audience, incidentally, are the jury.

Fortunately, Sheader hasn’t lost sight of through whose eyes we view the story, Finch’s tomboy daughter Scout, played by Jemima Bennett with effortless ease.

Run ends Saturday