Theatre Review: To Kill a Mockingbird, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, NW1

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee, ,Writer - Harper Lee, Director - Timothy Sheador, Designer

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee, ,Writer - Harper Lee, Director - Timothy Sheador, Designer - Jon Bausor, Regent Park Open Air Theatre, 2013, Credit: Johan Persson/ - Credit: Archant

Despite the bitterly cold winter and decidedly chilly spring we’ve all endured, it’s hard not to feel summer is just around the corner when the action starts at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

It really is a fantastic arena and this year’s productions look set to match the majesty of this unique stage; starting with To Kill a Mockingbird; Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel about racism in southern USA.

In previous year’s the sets at Regent’s Park have been pretty spectacular - the crashed plane fuselage that dominated Lord of the Flies in 2011 a notable example.

But artistic director Timothy Sheader has gone for a much more stripped back affair for this classic tale; apart from a solitary tree the stage is bare and it’s left to the cast the draw the streets and houses of Maycomb on the floor in chalk as the play begins.

There is also something minimal about how they set the scene; members of the cast reading aloud from copies of the book (in a variety of slightly incongruous accents), which can be a bit of a cop-out but on this occasion let the powerful marrative take centre stage.

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The plot, an emotional roller coaster of injustice and coming of age, is told with aplomb and Robert Sean Leonard (of medical drama House fame) is exceptional as Atticus Finch; a beacon of quiet dignity.

The climax of the play - an embittered courtroom drama - felt slightly ‘hammed-up’ at times; the story is strong enough without the need for to many melodramatics.

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But the end result is a compelling and very enjoyable retelling of Lee’s intense yarn. Luckily the weather stayed kind, cold but bright, and as ever the second half of the story was made all the more sinister by the light slowly fading through the trees.

Another year, another reason to visit regent’s Park theatre...

Four Stars

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