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Duncan Preston On ... To Kill a Mockingbird

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A new production of To Kill a Mockingbird opens at York Theatre Royal on 11th February before embarking on a national tour. Duncan Preston (Emmerdale, Dinner Ladies.) is set to recreate the role of the lawyer, Atticus Finch, with which he attracted great critic acclaim in 2007. Based on Harper Lee’s classic novel, the story focuses on bigotry and prejudice in small-town Alabama, with Atticus Finch embodying the moral hero, champion of equality and freedom and the model of integrity for lawyers. Duncan found time between rehearsals to have a quick chat about the play.

Having played Atticus Finch four years ago, to great acclaim, how have you found recreating the role for this production?

Rehearsals are going well, and we’re getting there! It’s just like starting again, really. It’s a different director, different cast and different production from before. And it’s a joy of a part to do. I love doing it, and to have a second chance to do it is a real treat.

How do you find playing Atticus Finch?

You couldn’t ask for a better part, really. He thinks like I do and his attitudes are mine in many ways. I have a kind of affinity with him and hopefully that’ll come across to the audience.

Have you encountered any particular challenges when playing him?

Any part’s a challenge to me! You always think, ‘Oh, I’ll never be able to do that’, but at least you’ve got a head start with this play because you know what its about and you know what the man’s about and hopefully that helps. It’s a book I think every child should have to read. I really believe that, and so I’d like to think I have a good grounding when it comes to playing this role, that can only enrich it.

You’ve had an amazing extended acting career, having trained at RADA, performed frequently with the RSC, and appeared in numerous TV programmes. Which roles have you most enjoyed playing?

I have to say that this is up there. This is way up there, especially on stage. Atticus Finch is just a great part. And ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is a great piece of work.

Do you find that you get a strong reaction from the audience with this play?

We don’t know yet! We did the last time, and you hope you send people out, first of all, thinking, that we’ve given them lots of things to think about, and, secondly, that they’ve watched a bloody great story that’s gripping. You can hear a pin drop—or you could before. I don’t know whether you will in this production. I hope you will.

Are there any roles you’d love to play in the future?

Good ones! With good people! I haven’t got any parts in mind at all. You don’t know when you start how a part is going to turn out, anyway. Everything’s new and that’s the way I like it. It’s like an endless spinning wheel, and you just go from one acting role to another and from one medium to another. It’s not a bad life, if it’s going well.

To Kill a Mockingbird is based on a novel written in 1960’s America. Why should people come and see it?

Before I began working on this role I had never read the book. I’ve read it now and it’s a brilliant piece of writing. I still haven’t seen the film and I don’t want to see it till this is over. I would say to people, if you come and see this production, you’re going to see a great story that takes you into another land and makes you think.


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