To Kill a Mockingbird, Regents Open Air Theatre

Harper Lee’s evocative telling of life in a small American town is
stunning on the page; stirring turbulent emotions surrounding the racial
prejudice in tight-knit communities during harsh financial times.

But how on earth do you go about re-reading a eponymous classic that you studied as a schoolkid? Do you try to dig out the notes, hack it alone with vague memories or hope you’ve forgotten everything and will discover the writing anew? How about sitting in Regent’s Park open-air theatre on a crisp autumn evening, cocooned tightly in a coat and scarf?

Shoe props kindly donated by a puzzled husband.

Luckily, that’s exactly where I found myself last week. I spoke recently with a friend about the danger of overusing superlatives, but it’s impossible not to be drawn into the spell woven about the audience. Clever, clever choreography, odes directly to the text, engaging actors, a fantastically simple set – no wonder they have had rave reviews. Whilst we were there we noticed several school groups, learning viscerally rather than through ink and page; oh to have had that opportunity.

  

Through courage
and compassion, lawyer Atticus Finch seeks the truth, and his feisty
daughter, Scout – a young girl on the cusp of adulthood – brings new
hope to a neighbourhood in turmoil.

Instead of throwing away the book and producing a movie-like setup of seamless changes and plot alterations, the New Shakespeare company begin the play immersively, drawing you deep into the storytelling – but I’m not going to tell you how.

The
actors were wonderful, portraying the nuances of each scene with ease
and humility – switching from local to American accents with ease, from
storytelling to living the drama with each hop, skip and strummed guitar haunting us with soft lyricism. Atticus, and the three children (playing Scout, Jim and Dill) were especially haunting in their portrayal

The open air theatre creates an unusual larger world – the birds calling, the rustling of the trees, occasional wail of sirens and clever use of the audience as the jury during sentencing (not a spoiler by the way); but would work wonderfully in their national theatre tour if you missed out on tickets (they don’t know who I am whatsoever – just Google them).

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