This timeless tale, in its stage adaptation by Timothy Sheaders, was both spell-bounding and immensely humble in equal measures.
Set in 1930s Southern America, this controversial tale was written by Harper Lee in 1960 where segregation between races was still present in most societies. The story itself is opened by the precocious nine-year-old Scout Finch, who lives in Maycombe County with her older brother Jem and father Atticus. The family are somewhat respected in the town, due to Atticus’ noble profession of a lawyer, dedicated to bringing justice to everyone who deserves it regardless of their ethnicity or circumstance. Focussing on a court case involving a local ‘trailer trash’ teenager Mayella Ewe and black labourer Tom Robinson, intertwined with the childlike curiosity between Scout, Jem, best friend Dill and the illusive character Boo Radley, this story covers all emotional bases.
The innovative nature of the production was presented in the opening – the whole cast, including a single ukulele/guitar player, gathered on the stage, each with a different edition of the novel to read the first page. They would then take to their seats on either side of the stage and, with subtle costume changes, appear when their role was due. Jemima Bennett (Scout) and Harry Bennett (Jem) would have a generally constant stage presence – with exceptional acting skills at such young ages, they proved themselves worthy of taking on these epic parts. The feisty nature displayed in Scout was an exact replica of that portrayed in the novel.
We witnessed a dark twist when the nature of the court scene comes to light, and the environment becomes increasingly more dangerous for each of the Finches as a result of Atticus’ kind-hearted actions. The loving, composed manner of Daniel Betts as Atticus accompanied the raw tension presented by Zackary Momoh, who played Tom Robinson.
The amazing portrayal of this classic novel brought the whole theatre hall to sobs. Perfectly capturing the essence of the tale, I found myself extremely emotionally affected. Thank you, Theatre Royal Newcastle.