Review Round-up: Critics coo over To Kill A Mockingbird
Timothy Sheader's production of To Kill A Mockingbird opened at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre this week (23 May 2013).
Harper Lee's classic story centres around a court case marred by racism, and the production features House star Robert Sean Leonard as Atticus Finch.
The cast also includes Richie Campbell, Simon Gregor, Hattie Ladbury, Rona Morison, Joe Speare, Daniel Tuite, Michele Austin, Christopher Ettridge, Tom Godwin, Stephen Kennedy, Phil King and Julie Legrand. It runs at the Open Air Theatre until 15 June 2013.
…There’s nothing stale or routine, though, in Timothy Sheader’s revival… The show has a stark, outline quality about it, entirely suited to the poetry and compression of the adaptation. And as night closes in around us, and news comes of the tragedy after the conviction, the scene is set perfectly for the assault on the children themselves after a fancy dress pageant at the school… It’s a quiet, still and enigmatic performance… Actors are allowed their own accents, wisely avoiding too much bad Southern drawling, and Phil King has composed, and performs with guitar, some pretty good linking songs...
...Timothy Sheader’s playful production, with its town design based around a series of childlike chalk drawings on the floor, flares into life in a hugely affecting second half.... Jem and Scout, played with feistiness on opening night by Adam Scotland and Izzy Lee, are warm and mischievous from the start... Robert Sean Leonard, best known for the TV series House, provides a wonderfully rumpled humanity. He delivers Atticus’s summing-up speech with a terrific restrained power...
If you have tears, prepare to shed them at this superb adaptation of Harper Lee’s great book… The child actors are this production’s secret weapon… The biggest compliment I can pay Robert Sean Leonard… is that he is exactly as I imagined him when reading the book, deftly capturing the character’s wisdom, kindness, dry wit and underlying melancholy. And the supporting cast bring the characters in the town to exceptionally vivid life… My only cavils about the production are the fact that the narrative passages are delivered in British accents… and the songs, written and performed by Phil King, though attractive, also seem far too English. A score of rural American blues would work more potently. But these are minor flaws in a production of tremendous heart and emotional depth.
…The children are terrific… They are beautifully directed, as are all the townspeople: narrating, quarrelling, sometimes surging powerfully together across the stage to underscore moments of high tension… Robert Sean Leonard… is a marvel of restraint, conveying not showy heroism but weary, doubtful fragility… His courtroom summing-up, despite the great words, is played hesitant and almost broken. You shiver for him… At first I was uneasy at the idea of parts of Scout’s narration being parcelled out to adult characters reading from vintage editions as if from sacred text. But it came to seem right, as if repeating the tale were a necessary community ritual...
...So it’s a relief to report that after last year’s gloomy rep adventures, things are back on track with Timothy Sheader’s riveting and sympathetic production of Christopher Sergel’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s civil rights classic, starring ‘House’s Robert Sean Leonard as Southern attorney Atticus Finch...it’s entirely to Leonard’s credit that he basically channels Peck’s toweringly charismatic Southern gentleman performance successfully with his own slight spin – a little more awkward, a little more vulnerable, a little more human... its real triumph is in perfectly capturing its warmth and childish wonder...