Image accessed from West Yorkshire Playhouse
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre award winning production is currently touring round the UK including a stop at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Adapted by Christopher Sergel, the cast mingles with the audience at the beginning of the play and introduces Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. The incredible John Bausor's staging is where the performers mark on stage with chalk the town's locations and movements for each scene. This is an ingenious way to inform the audience what is happening aided by reading aloud at periods Pulitzer Prize winner classic.
The story, set in America's Deep South in the 1930s, is told by Scout (played by Jemima Bennett), a six year old girl. The audience is invited to see the child's interpretation and exploration of the world around her including the adults behaviours in the community and its complexities and injustices in an ever changing world. Atticus Finch, played by Daniel Betts, believe in the humanity and justice, defends Tom Robinson (played by Zackay Momoh), a black worker who is wrongly accused of raping a white woman.
Accompanied with Phil King's music, the story is revealed all in the community itself during the first act. In the second act the focus is switched to the courtroom where the children, from their own eyes, witness the injustices of Tom Robinson's trail from the 'coloured' gallery. No doubt the children would see how complex the adult world really is and nothing is neither black nor white. Nick Smurthewaite writes in the house programme that the children 'struggle with the knowledge that their community embraces racism while claiming to be decent and law-abiding'.
Lee wrote this book in the 1960s during the time of radical social changes with regards to race equality. One can especially think of the Scottsboro Brothers where nine black men were wrongly accused of raping two women and how such injustices triggered these changes. The changes would offer courage and hope though uncertainty at the time. One imagines that To Kill A Mockingbird works in similar unison to achieving human rights for dignity and respect.
An excellent production with the wonderful direction by Timothy Sheader, where parts of the performance is read aloud from a number of editions of the classic, offers the audience to appreciate the story and its themes in a collective way. A shared perspective indeed!