Two years after this production was first staged at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, it now returns to the Barbican and I could not be more satisfied that I got the chance to see it this time around. This stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic is as important today as ever. Even though nowadays we rarely observe racial injustices like those in our courts of law, it is vital to remember that we once tolerated such bigotry. It is important to reflect how human beings can be so blind into matters of equality and wonder which aspects of today’s society are we being blind to right now?
“Fortunately there are some people in this world who are brave enough to do what the rest of us doesn’t” – there are some key thoughts in this play that still ring in my ears. Timothy Sheader’s direction is rightfully focused on the storytelling with the use of the book on stage with the members of the company reading directly from it. This story is told through the words of a child – Scout – the daughter of Atticus Finch. The eyes of curious children are able to question and see without the blurry lenses of prejudice. This adds a heart-breaking dimension to the story: how can the young ones be wiser than the old ones? How can the young ones show more courage?
The cast feels like a family on stage, there is a true sense of ensemble and respect for one another and that can be felt in the performances. Ava Potter as Scout is hilarious yet moving and with a powerful presence on stage to the point that the sheer memory of her brings tears to my eyes. She is the perfect example of an actress doing everything in the right measure, blending in when necessary and amazing us when it’s her time. She is accompanied by other impressive young actors: Tommy Rodger as Jem, her brother, and Connor Brundish as Dill, their dear friend. The three of them demonstrate a remarkable maturity on stage, as they are responsible for most of the action of the play.
I believe the first act, which is mostly lead by the children, is meant to make us care for these characters and understand their world. This is very well achieved, with it being evident in the second act as our hearts are gripped by the shattering events. Robert Sean Leonard is Atticus Finch, the lawyer who has decided to defend against all odds the black man who was wrongly accused of raping a white woman. He is the driving force of the second act, and wins me over with his speech in court – “not all men are born under equal circumstances, but if there is one place where we are all the same, that should be the court”. He appeals for justice with an incredibly moving and passionate speech and gets none. His posture, his voice and his composure make him a compelling character to watch and Leonard undoubtedly excels in bringing him to life. When he endearingly lifts Scout for a long and silent hug at the end, it is impossible not to be moved to tears.
Phil King’s voice and guitar beautifully fill the transition moments and everything on stage is seamless and sincere. This is definitely one of those productions that go to the top of my list of unforgettable theatre experiences. 5/5
Review written by Sofia Moura.
To Kill A Mockingbird is currently showing at the Barbican until… For more information, visit here…