Based on Harper Lee’s 1960 novel about small-town America in the 1930s, this is a refreshingly large ensemble cast production that successfully encapsulates the novel’s wide-ranging themes of racism, bigotry and prejudice. The excellent script holds the attention throughout, guided by the narration of adult Scout (Jacqueline Wood) revisiting her childhood memories.
Among many strong performances, Duncan Preston (<i>Dinnerladies</i>) is immensely likeable and self-assured as the lawyer, Atticus Finch, while the three actors playing children (Grace Rowe as Scout, Matthew Pattimore as Jem, and Graeme Dalling as Dill) successfully convey the energy and awkwardness of youth. Clare Corbett is outstanding as Mayella Ewell, the girl crying rape, combining belligerence, fear, guilt and deceit in a superbly subtle performance.
The slatted wood set contributes to the sense of small-town claustrophobia, especially at first, but I feel that the back projections add little to the action. This excellent production handles the complex, adult themes of racial hatred and social division boldly and competently, and the fact that the child Scout guides us through the action makes this play highly accessible to younger people. The dramatic momentum is maintained throughout, even in the courtroom scene. An enjoyable, engaging and thought-provoking production.