To Kill A Mockingbird
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh,
His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen,
Reviewed by Mark Brown
The arrival in Scotland, on Tuesday, of this tour of To Kill A Mockingbird coincided auspiciously with the announcement that the missing sequel to Harper Lee’s opus had been found. Go Set A Watchman, which was written before Mockingbird, is to be published some 55 years after its illustrious sister novel.
The news added a frisson of excitement to the Scottish opening of a production, by Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, which comes adorned with laurels placed upon its head by a number of the London critics. Not for the first time, however, do I find myself thinking that many of my colleagues in the metropolis have been decidedly easy to impress.
Director Timothy Sheader has, indisputably, crafted a sturdy, unerringly faithful retelling of the famous tale of young girl Scout Finch, from whose perspective we see the racism of 1930s Alabama at lethal work in the legal lynching of the innocent, young black man Tom Robinson. What is less certain, however, is that Sheader’s production, or, indeed, Christopher Sergel’s play, succeed in overcoming the difficulties inherent in adapting an episodic novel to the stage.
Sheader’s decision to have the cast narrate, books in hand and speaking in their various British accents, is a bold attempt to make a virtue out of a necessity. As the actors shift back-and-forth between character and storyteller, it is also awkward and anti-theatrical.
There are many fine performances, not least from Ava Potter (one of three young actors playing Scout on this tour), and the second act enjoys the theatricality that comes with any well-written court scene. However, complete, as it was on Tuesday night, with a moment of clumsily dysfunctional design (a piece of garden railing which became more picket than fence), this is theatre very much of the middling sort.
This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on February 8, 2015
© Mark Brown