Writer: Harper Lee
Adaptor: Christopher Sergel
Director: Timothy Sheader
Reviewer: Donna Kelly
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t love Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The Pulitzer Prize winning novel, which was made into a film in 1962 starring Gregory Peck, still continues to capture the hearts and imagination of people across the world. No surprise then Christopher Sergel’s award-winning stage adaptation received a rapturous reception on its opening night at The Lowry.
Set in the American Deep South in 1935, To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story of Atticus Finch, a liberal lawyer in a racially divided southern town who defends a black man against an alleged rape charge. The story is told through the eyes of his daughter, Scout, a young girl on the cusp of adulthood and is emblematic of the US struggle for civil rights and racial equality.
What makes Sergel’s adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird so special is the unique way in which is it told. Timothy Sheader’s direction is fresh, innovative and modern, paying visible homage to Lee’s novel. The performance starts with the cast reading from different editions of the novel, alternating between their rôle as narrator and their rôle in the supporting cast. Jon Bausor’s titled set is simple yet incredibly effective. Chalk is skillfully used to map out and separate the different narrative sections with lighting and sound by Oliver Fenwick and Ian Dickinson contributing to the atmosphere.
What truly propels the story of To Kill a Mockingbird is the characters. Daniel Betts is quietly magnificent as the lead protagonist Atticus Finch, a man determined to do what is right, no matter what the cost. Betts develops this incredible man with each and every scene and his chemistry with the children is natural, loving and realistic.
The true stars however are the young performers who play Scout, Jem and Dill. Billy Price plays a strong rôle as Jem, Scout’s brother and constant playmate. Milo Panni is also superb as Dill, Jem and Scout’s best friend. But it’s Rosie Boore who is particularly spellbindingly as the heroine Scout, with the young actress delivering a focused, lively and captivating performance that is beyond her years.
The performance ends with the cast lifting Lee’s classic novel in the air, resulting in a rapturous applause from the audience. Enchanting, moving and superbly acted, Christopher Sergel’s adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird is not to be missed. A superb production that captures the warmth and poignancy of this best-loved classic.
Runs until 23 May : Photo – Johan Persson