Venue: York Theatre Royal
Directed By: Damien Cruden
Adaptated by: Christopher Sergel
Running Until: 26 February 2011
As part of a nationwide tour, Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird is showing at York Theatre Royal. The full house echoed the popularity of the book, and the expectations of the audience.
Iconic Atticus, played effortlessly by Duncan Preston, was believable and mesmerising. Wise and firm, his summing up at the end of the court case was excellent and showcased his talents as a seasoned actor. Grace Rowe as Scout was endearing, and her youthful feisty character reflected perfectly an inquisitive nature. Another lovely performance came from Jacqueline Boatswain as Calpurnia who, although in a supporting role, shone through strongly. However, the use of the character Jean Louise Finch – aka Older Scout (Jacqueline Wood) was not always effective. When looking back over her past, a sense of emphatic fondness should have been more firmly grounded, especially in hindsight and with regards to the nature of the scenes.
Stark set design by Liam Doona was eye catching, providing a symbolic representation of the Deep South in the 30’s. Copious amounts of whitewash, and the simple addition of pieces against a virtually static main set, effectively set the canvas and the action against it. The use of the projector and varying levels helped add dimension, while the grainy effect of the screen illustrated the complexity of the issues and the unreliability of memory.
As in the book, the focus of the play is on the court scene, which was done brilliantly. The characters, questioning stereotypes, instilled a real sense of right and wrong with the audience. The compassion felt towards the accused Tom Robinson (Cornelius Macarthy) was genuinely great, and the tension built up prior to the verdict was excellent. However, save the court case, the second half was somewhat disappointing. It felt as though so much attention had been paid to that scene that the successive ones were left merely to tie up loose ends. After the verdict the drama and tension that should be present as we fear for Atticus’ life is not fully explored. This could be due to Bob Ewell (Mark White) not being aggressive or threatening enough to warrant serious worry. There was no real intensity, and the attack on Jem (Matthew Pattimore) seemed out of place in regards to the rest of the second half.
In general, To Kill a Mockingbird was well cast and therefore showed acting of the highest standard; it is a shame there were some shortcomings, as they were never able to reach fever pitch. Nevertheless, an amalgamation of great set, lighting, original music by Christopher Madin and direction by Damien Cruden made the evening an enjoyable one which definately merits a visit into York to see this adaptation of truly classic literature.