The Lowry, Salford – until 23 May 2015
Adapting Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, for the stage is a brave decision to make. The novel has recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, and besides being a staple on the GCSE curriculum, it has been translated into 40 languages and sold over 30 million copies worldwide. This humble, poignant and charming stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel pays homage to the legacy of the novel and everyone who has read it.
With simple staging, the cast present the story of racial injustice in a small-town community in the Deep South. Lawyer Atticus Finch is in seek of the truth when he represents Tom Robinson, who stands accused of rape. The narrative is told through the eyes of his daughter, Scout who is a feisty and inquisitive young girl.
The play opens with the whole of the cast holding various editions and well thumbed copies of the novel in an acknowledgement to the text. Under Timothy Sheader’s skillful direction, the company then remain visible throughout the production, each holding and reading their copies of the book at each side of the stage. All costume changes are all performed with little fuss on stage, in a bid to create the insular society that the characters inhabit. And musician Luke Potter plays a colourful folk soundtrack composed by Phil King, which hints at the slow pace of life in Maycomb.
The simple stage design by Jon Bausor creates a perfect canvas for the storytelling to shine, as the cast read excerpts from the novel, staying true to the texts original form. Daniel Betts gives a captivating performance as Atticus Finch, particularly during the court scene. Scout (Rosie Boore), Jem (Billy Price) and Dill (Milo Panni) certainly impress, especially when so much hinges on the quality of the child actors in this production.
Perhaps my only qualm is that the production does take for granted that the audience have all read the text – Boo Radley’s character is not really explored enough for us to fear him and as a result the ending does lack some depth. Nevertheless, this is a production which is definitely worth seeing and not just by those studying for their GCSE’s.
To Kill a Mockingbird is at The Lowry, Salford until Saturday 23rd May 2015.