To Kill a Mockingbird at Regent’s Park Theatre
It is an unseasonably cold night in London (although perhaps it’s time we got used to those) but the open air theatre in Regent’s Park is packed, albeit with people huddled under blankets and waterproofs. This tear-jerking production of To Kill a Mockingbird is well worth suffering a little numb footedness for.
Harper Lee’s first (and only) novel became an instant classic upon its publication in 1960, bagging her a Pulitzer Prize and a place on high school reading lists for the rest of eternity. Adapted by the late Christopher Sergel, it is a novel that, due to its episodic nature, translates well to the stage.
Robert Sean Leonard, perhaps most famous for his role in The Dead Poets Society, stars as Atticus Finch, the great moral conscience of American literature. Although Gregory Peck’s performance in the much lauded film is quite rightly iconic, Leonard’s portrayal of a quiet, dignified, and moral man who knows he has to do what he believes is right, despite the social consequences, is a great success. His court room speech is hugely passionate, and delivered with a wealth of emotion bubbling just below the surface. Richie Campbell as the accused Tom Robinson also gives a fine performance, eloquently portraying a good man being brutally punished for daring to feel sorry for a white woman.
The child actors though, are the stars of the show, particularly Izzy Lee who plays Scout. Along with the rest of the large cast, she maps out the boundaries of their world on a blackboard stage, a world the children feel they own. Adam Scotland as Jem cleverly portrays the hinterland between confusion and understanding that a child on the verge of adolescence inhabits. He and Scout make a charming double-act, and thanks to their excellent performances the bond between them is realistic and palpable.
The production also benefits from a large supporting cast who also double as narrators. Reading from battered editions of the novel, this narrative technique helps to give authority to Scout’s version of Maycomb County, and helps us enter into the spirit of her world. Although the variety of American accents on display are at times a little shaky, this is a confident and visually appealing production that benefits from its outdoor setting, despite the decidedly un-Alabaman weather.
To Kill a Mockingbird is at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until 15th June 2013. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the teaser for the production here: