Part of the beauty of Harper Lee’s classic work, ‘To kill a mockingbird’, is the narration by the lead character Scout, a feisty young girl. And, thankfully none of that was lost in the stage production of it at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. The various non-principle characters took up the role of narrator for parts of the play where Scout’s inner thoughts and observations carry the story and bring humour and a child’s non-prejudiced insight.
For those who haven’t had the good fortune of studying the book at school, the story is set in a backwater US town in 1930s, in the midst of the Great Depression. Scout recounts the events surrounding the trial of black farm worker Tom Robinson for the alleged rape of his white neighbour’s daughter. Scout’s father Atticus Finch is the lawyer who heroically takes on the unenviable task of defending Robinson in a time where racism and segregation between black and white people was still rife.
The characters of this story are a vibrant and varied bunch and the casting for this show was spot on. The actress playing Scout did a fantastic job, getting the nuances of this little tomboy down to a tee. Robert Sean Leonard (Wilson from ‘House’) pitched his world-weary yet ultimately hopeful Atticus Finch perfectly. And special mention must go to Richie Campbell as Tom Robinson and Rona Morison who played Mayella Ewell, who gave passionate courtroom performances.
What really made the show though is the staging. The open air theatre experience really worked: it made you feel you were there in small town, rural America watching events unfold because you are in an open air setting. The effect of watching the sun set throughout the performance, which gets metaphorically darker as it goes on, provided wonderful pathethic fallacy. The set itself was used imaginatively and the childish drawing out of the street Scout lives on with chalk on the stage was a genius stroke that added to the feel that we were inside a child’s mind and looking at her take on events.
The play is only on until the 15th June – so hurry on down there, this stage version of a beloved novel shouldn’t be missed.