To Kill a Mockingbird
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre
Regent's Park, London
Friday 31st May 2013
To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most popular American novels of all time, and continues to appear on bestseller lists - thanks in no small part to its inclusion on the national curriculum in both Britain and the US. Studied for it's exquisite and memorable exploration of race relations in America's Deep South during the Great Depression, it is narrated through the eyes of Scout Finch - the tomboy daughter of defence attorney Atticus. It is the innocence and honesty of the protagonist as she witnesses events that she does not fully understand, and the bravery of her quietly heroic father that makes this story stand out and makes the novel so ideal to study.
Christopher Sergel's adaptation being performed this summer at the glorious Regent's Park Open Air theatre is a captivating and accurate version of this classic of modern literature. The design, by Jon Bausor, is extremely clever in both it's simplicity and suitability to the piece, bringing Maycomb immediately to life before our eyes while maintaining a childish distance from the gritty reality of the plot that fits ideally with Scout's narrative voice. Under Timothy Sheader's careful direction we never lose sight of the written origin of the story, with the cast remaining on stage throughout holding various editions of the novel and acting as narrators to join the scenes by reading excerpts of the book.
Every performance from this wonderful cast is an exemplary characterisation of these familiar Maycomb residents. Robert Sean Leonard leads as Atticus Finch, the model of integrity and modesty as he ebbs between jaded exhaustion and defiant determination that justice and the law will prevail over the prejudices of the legal system. His performance is completely absorbing as we see, through his young daughter's eyes and a series of otherwise minor day-to-day events that build up to a life changing court scene, the revelation of her boring old father as an intelligent and courageous hero. Our performance saw Izzy Lee as Scout, stubborn tomboy but with a level of intelligence, wit and integrity that she is just beginning discovering in herself. This was an accomplished and enjoyable performance.
An absolute gem of a production, my already high expectations were blown away. A novel I must have read a dozen times, that I felt I had almost rediscovered in this fresh, creative and absorbing show. This will take some beating not to be one of my favourite plays of the year.