★★★★ | To Kill A Mockingbird, Sheffield Lyceum & National Tour
Harper Lee’s classic American novel, which many will remember from their schooldays, is beautifully presented in this classy and stylistic play.
Set in the deep south of America in the 1930s, issues of racism, prejudice and optimism are explored through the eyes of the young narrator, Scout, as she learns of the flaws in those who live amongst her in her neighbourhood and counterbalances this by watching her Father, an idealistic lawyer, as he defends a black man accused of raping a white girl. As tensions build within the small community, Scout learns about the impact of both hatred and of standing up for your beliefs, regardless of external pressures.
Despite its somewhat heavy themes and the dramatic tension displayed on stage, the play still maintains a good mixture of very gentle humour and childhood innocence which lifted it slightly, ably aided and enhanced by a strong cast who provided universally excellent performances. In particular, Zackary Momoh stood out as the accused Tom Robinson, the young leads performed well and Luke Potter provided some delightful and atmospheric musical accompaniment. The staging of the play was impressive, with scenes interspersed with the cast members reading directly from the novel, acting in the role of narrator, before seamlessly morphing into various characters in the story as another narrator took over. The actors entered and exited the stage though the audience, and placed the audience in the shoes of the Jury during the trial scenes. The set was deliberately sparse, with simple props being used to set the scene, allowing the performances and writing to be the focus and avoiding the drama being overshadowed by being style over substance. Director, Timothy Schrader cleverly utilises these techniques to provide an absorbing and engaging presentation which draws the audience in.
To Kill A Mockingbird is a thought provoking and timely reminder of the impact of blind prejudice and despite being written around 55 years ago, it’s themes are still pertinent today, especially when considering the persecution of the gay community in various parts of the world. Overall, this is a high-quality production which is engrossing, engaging and enjoyable.
To Kill A Mockingbird is playing at Sheffield Theatres (www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk) until 31st January 2015 before continuing on its national tour (http://www.tokillamockingbirdplay.com/).