THERE were some who thought that a theatrical adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, with its tense courtroom climax, would be unlikely to work in the sylvan setting of Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, but last summer’s production confounded the sceptics, winning rave reviews from critics and the sell-out audiences.
When it closed in the Park, the Christopher Sergel adapted and Timothy Sheader directed production was re-imagined for a proscenium stage, and visits Bath at the start of an 18 venue 2015 UK tour.
Audiences booked every seat for every performance in double-quick time, so that an extra matinee had to be slotted in – and they won’t be disappointed.
It all starts with a motley crew of people carrying books, ascending the stage (with its substantial tree) and reading passages in their own voices.
As they step into character, suddenly the sounds of the Deep South are evoked, from the mockers of the title and the cicadas to the plangent singing of Phil King and the drawling speech.
Told from the viewpoint of the six-year-old tomboy Scout Finch, (played here by the sensational Ava Potter) it’s set in a sleepy town where Atticus Finch is a unusual lawyer, famed for his tolerance. At the start of the story, as Scout, her brother Jem and their friend Dil while away the summer days, there’s talk of a trial, and Scout pieces together the fragments of conversation to try to understand what’s going on.
The inherent racism is deep ingrained, but Atticus tries to persuade his children to view every event from the point of view of the other person before making a judgement.
This stunning version of the story is all about tolerance and humanity – timeless themes that have never been more important than in these days of increasing worldwide religious and nationalist tensions.
Your only chance of seeing the Bath run of the play is to hope for return or a day ticket, but the tour comes to Southampton in March and Plymouth in April. Don’t miss it.