Theatre in Wales

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Raw, provocative and engaging

To Kill a Mockingbird

Touring company , New Theatre Cardiff , February 7, 2007
To Kill a Mockingbird by Touring company “Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don’t pretend to understand.” (Atticus Finch)

When Harper Lee wrote her controversial novel in 1950 she could never have expected it to still touch a raw nerve over 50 years later. In many ways timeless for the wrong reasons To Kill a Mockingbird is a tale of bigotry and trepidation that rings too many bells for comfort. Lee’s thought provoking text, adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel is packed with beliefs and notions that test our perception and tolerance. Seen through the eyes of two young children the audience observe their loss of innocence in a society clouded by social and racial in equality. They are brutally introduced to the human power to destroy another soul though prejudice and fear induced ignorance.

The play is set in 1930’s Southern America during the Depression, a time when tempers were fraught and anxiety high. Widower Atticus Finch agrees to represent an innocent black man who is accused of raping and beating a white woman. His two children observe their fathers desperate and righteous attempt to maintain justice in a society shackled by discrimination. As time passes the children learn uncomfortable truths about their neighbours, humanity and their future.

Simon Higlett and Johanna Town have worked hard to create an attractive, versatile and authentic set, with the gentle dappled lighting proving particularly effective. Duncan Preston successfully shakes off any preconceptions and delivers an absorbing performance as Atticus Finch, his gentle assurance floating through the production like a sweet summer breeze only to be quashed by his polluted peers. He provides a sense of comfort and hope in a distorted and unfriendly world.

Bettrys Jones gives the best performance I have seen in this venue as Scout, the energetic and inquisitive youngest daughter of Atticus. Her tiny frame and wispy looks are perfect for the role, but it is the perfection of her characterisation that is most impressive. Jones displays accuracy and skill with her excellent southern American drawl and at no point was I left unconvinced at her performance.

Excellent performances also come from Craig Vye and Jean-Marc Perret as the other two children who although are not visually as convincing manage to illustrate the innocence and intrigue of childhood without appearing patronising. These three characters represent the ingenuous sense of reason that is often unattainable to the sightless eyes of adults. Vinta Morgan makes an emotional impact as the wronged Tom Robinson, a man with more virtue and honour than any of those who stand to accuse him. Ged McKenna juxtaposes humour with abhor as the drunken Bob Ewell who plays on the vulnerability of his neighbourhood to disguise his own sickening conduct.

After recent media activity over a certain racism row the enduring impact of this play is all the more poignant. Michael Buffong’s production is raw, provocative and engaging, and acts as a painful reminder of the imperfections of our society. With an outstanding cast performing such an exceptional text this production should be top of your to do list this week.

Reviewed by: Amy Stackhouse

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