TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD by Harper Lee
Nottingham Theatre Royal.
The book is a modern day literacy classic which, after seeing this performance, now makes me want to find that book out and read it all over again. The book was first published in 1960 but the content as relevant today as it was back in the segregation days of 1933 - 1935 when the story was set.
Thomas Jefferson had famously stated that all men were created equal but this story of injustice and the fight for what was right in the face of absurdity, and humanity, proved his statement to be way off the mark. The story has a hell of a lot of warmth and humour even though it deals with rape and racial inequality as the core storyline, but it is interesting to see how the minor storylines revolve around the main story.
Such was the power of the written word that British librarians once ranked the book ahead of the Bible as one "every adult should read before they die".
Southern lawyer, Atticus Finch is set to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who has been accused of raping a young white woman, Mayella Ewell. He wants to do what's right by Tom but the whole town of Maycomb, Alabama just knows that he ain't got a chance of getting Tom off due to the deep hatred of "niggers" of the town.
The story is narrated through the eyes of six-year-old Scout Finch, who lives with her older brother, Jem, and their widowed father, Atticus. Jem and Scout befriend a boy named Dill, who visits Maycomb to stay with his aunt each summer. The three children are terrified of, and fascinated by, their neighbour, the reclusive "Boo" Radley.
At the trial Tom is found guilty but that is not enough for Mayella's father, Bob, who gains his revenge when Tom is murdered while awaiting trial. Bob though is also mysteriously killed after breaking Jem's arm but who stabbed Bob? Did he really fall on his own knife as told by Sheriff Tate? Or did "Boo" have some involvement when he saw Jem being hurt by Bob?
This cast were just amazing and the children who played Scout, Jem and Dill were so professional, confident and focused, never straying from their Southern accent for a second. Not only working the stage but the stalls as well, Rosie Boore (Scout), Billy Price (Jem) and I think it was Milo Panni who played Dill tonight, I say think because there are three sets of young actors playing these parts.
Daniel Betts played Atticus, just as good as Gregory Peck in the film, if not better with Christopher Arkill as "Boo". You really felt for Tom who was played with such feeling by Zacharay Momoh, you could feel the fear he emitted as he fought for the freedom that he hoped would come his way. Susan Lawson-Reynolds was fabulous as the children's "nanny", Calpurnia,and when she broke down in tears when she heard of Tom's death, well it brought a tear to my eye as well. I won't mention all the cast, only to say that every single actor earned their pay with this play because they were all brilliant.
Sensitively directed by Timothy Sheader with a simple but effective set which included a full grown tree. How did they get that tree to be so solid on that rake stage? Only designer Jon Bouser knows! Majella Hurley also deserves a mention as being the dialect coach for this show. One thing that bugs me is when the accent "wanders" but there were no wanderings here.
A standing ovation at the end of the show let the cast know what an amazingly emotive piece of work we had just witnessed, and I don't doubt that this will be repeated every night while in Nottingham.
"To Kill A Mockingbird" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 28 February 2015, continuing what is turning out to be an equally amazing season at the Theatre Royal.