Review: To Kill A Mockingbird
WORDS: Tom Williams, YEG
New Theatre - Tuesday, 2 March 2010, 7.30pm
As easy as Black and White. But nothing is ever just black and white. Is it?
This is Harper Lee's famous story of the desperate case of Tom Robinson, a young black American, who is accused of raping and assaulting a young white girl who was calling for his help. This is set in 1935 Alabama a stark contrast from today’s America, where President Barrack Hussein Obama presides in the White House. In fact, the story is full of stark contrasts, and this is what makes it work so well. The level and volume of character parallels, makes it a complete and enriching experience. To Kill a Mockingbird is about: the rich and poor; the educated and uneducated; male and female; black and white; life and death.
This was a suitably strong adaptation of this popular modern day classic. Full of strong characters, strong actors, and strong raw emotions. The sort of play you want to scream at to scream out against the wrong. You want to jump in and help out. If you’re the quiet or fighting type, this is the play for you. Just don’t pop your clogs before you pop down to the New Theatre to check it out!
The American Dream. All the characters have dreams. But on the back of the Great Depression, they all seem so agonisingly far away. Bob Ewell probably has the most typical dream. He is a commoner with a large family, who works the land, and dreams of a more prosperous world. The notorious Atticus Finch: a demon to some, a saviour to others. He constantly dreams of a fairer, more moral world. His inquisitive, boisterous daughter, called Scout, is always dreaming out loud, about anything and everything, and is a pure delight. Tom Robinson’s dream isn’t one of prosperity. It’s not money he’s concerned with, it’s race. It’s about life.
If ever there was a strong-themed story, this was it. The whole story revolves around equality and fairness, and the struggles people face, and indeed, sometimes throw themselves into, to achieve what is right. Sometimes you have to stand up against life-long friends and neighbours to do this. Sometimes it is harder to do the right thing than the wrong thing. Sometimes there is less praise for doing right than for doing wrong. Sometimes it is less glorious. Sometimes you enter a fight destined to lose, but you go ahead anyway. Sometimes you lose the day, but win the battle. Sometimes you have to go against your entire country’s history. But one day the mould has to be broken.
This play is the essence of strong characters, and this version has captured this in all its entirety, purity, and sometimes even ugliness. The cast used really were a triumph. Atticus is the anchor character, and Gwyn Vaughan Jones plays him superbly well, in a way that will forever be anchored in my mind. I have seen previous performances where Scout has been poor. Indeed, as Atticus himself points out “You don’t really understand a person, until you have walked around in their shoes for a while”. Scout is an extremely hard character to play, and so central, that this actor can be pivotal to the performance as a whole. Scout, here played by Amy Morgan, was excellent a pitch-perfect performance.
There was only one scene that I did not enjoy. There is a scene where they have to shoot a dog with rabies that is stumbling towards them, and threatening them. It was told by a poor narrator, it was acted without conviction, and without a dog! But it also involved no change in scenery a complaint of the show as a whole. In previous versions, no scenery change has been more than sufficient, but here there was only basic scenery to start with, and since the whole play centres on a neighbourhood, the lack of visible neighbourhood was a visible gap that needed filling!
Overall, To Kill a Mockingbird is a journey not to be missed and it was so good to see so many other young people at this show. You don’t have to be a drama buff or even have morals - the play beckons you! This is a great adaptation to get introduced to it, and if I were a betting man, I’d bet my bottom dollar you’ll go back and see it again! It is just one of those monumental struggles that you just have to live. And relive. And pray to God that it is only in the theatre, and that it is over for real. But it happened. And that’s what makes it even more powerful, more poignant.