REVIEW – TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD – GIELGUD THEATRE

To Kill A Mockingbird delivers on every level, and comes alive in the courtroom scenes!

{Seen whilst in previews}

photo shows Rafe Spall as Atticus Finch looking forlorn. There is a chair in the foreground and he has his hands in his pockets. He is dressed in a beige suit.
© Marc Brenner

(There are spoilers – sorry if you’ve not read the book)

I was desperate to see To Kill a Mockingbird and was sure it wasn’t going to happen as tickets were difficult to get and quite expensive, and then they released £15 “All Rise” tickets and I snapped one up immediately. When I say that’s the best £15 I’ve spent, I mean it. 

The production is based on the book, written by Harper Lee in 1960, however Aaron Sorkin has written the script for this production. It was not an easy ride for him to get here. As he was faced with a legal battle from Lee’s estate. Despite Lee signing off on the production before she passed away in 2016, members of her estate tried to stop the production happening as they believed the script deviated from the novel too much. This show is a Broadway transfer. It opened on Broadway in 2018 with Jeff Daniels playing Atticus.

It’s the 1930s, and the story centres around Atticus Finch played by Rafe Spall. Atticus is a lawyer, defending Tom Robinson (Jude Owusu), a 25 year old black man, in a rape trial. He is alleged to of raped a young white girl, Mayella. 

a picture of the cast during a courtroom scene
© Marc Brenner

Scout Finch (Gwyneth Keyworth), her brother Jem (Harry Redding) and their friend Dill (David Moorst) narrate the play. Keyworth is the perfect Scout, she very much passes as younger than the actress is and it works very well. These three are on stage for most of the production, and their energy levels were high throughout! 

The major change we see in this production compared to others is that Sorkin has spun the story around, and swapped the central protagonist to Atticus, when it’s traditionally been Scout. Atticus’ main flaw is that he’s determined to see the good in everyone, even when they’re clearly indefensible – such as Bob Ewell, who abuses his child and is a member of the KKK. Calpurnia, the Finch’s housekeeper, excellently played by Pamela Nomvete is a key part of Atticus’ development throughout the show, as she calls him out on this and stands up to him. 

Where this production really shines in during the courtroom scenes. They’re dramatic, impassioned and stick with you after the curtain has come down. It highlights the racist issues within the criminal justice system, with an all white jury convicting Robinson, despite all the evidence showing his innocence. This was certainly an issue in 1930s Alabama and racial inequality within justice certainly remains an issue today. 

Some of the staging transitions between scenes seemed a bit clunky, there were a lot of set pieces coming in and out – I don’t know if they’ve refined this now from the previews and made it more seamless. But I think it would have helped the show flow more between scenes.

Otherwise there is simply nothing I can fault this production on, it has no weak links within the cast and they deliver a powerful and emotional performance. Go and see it asap! I’m hoping to go back again. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Picture shows Scout holding a book, Dill has a hand on the book and Jem is stood behind them. They are all looking off to the right.

© Marc Brenner

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