Theatre Review – Christine Hoey

To Kill A Mockingbird – Bolton Octagon

Saturday 17 September 2016

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Twenty-one Leyland U3A members attended the sold-out performance of To Kill A Mockingbird at Bolton Octagon on Saturday 21 September. Harper Lee’s semi-autobiographical novel is a much loved classic of 20th century fiction and was followed by a film version with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in 1962.

So the story is well known: Atticus Finch (Rob Edwards) is a widowed small town lawyer and father of two young children, who takes on the (doomed) defence of a black man, Tom Robinson, (Marc Small) on trial for his life for the alleged rape of a white woman, Mayella Ewell (Leila Mimmack) in 1930s Alabama.

This stage adaptation features the adult Scout Finch (Barbara Drennan) looking back at the characters and pivotal events of that 1930s summer, when childhood innocence comes face to face with the harsh realities of adult experience.

Even though the majority of the audience knows what the outcome of the trial will be, the courtroom scenes are tense and suspenseful, as we watch events unfold with the townsfolk in the public gallery. Rob Edwards and Marc Small both play their parts with great assurance and understated dignity, whilst Leila Mimmack touchingly conveys both the abject misery and sense of guilt of the abused Mayella Ewell.  Harry Long as her father, Bob, becomes increasingly menacing as the play progresses.

Director Elizabeth Newman impressively marshals her cast of 14 adults (some playing several parts) and three children. Even the smallest roles are powerfully and convincingly acted and the child actors more than hold their own alongside their experienced professional colleagues. Indeed, some of the most moving moments involve the young Scout deflecting the mob who are intent on lynching Tom Robinson, and later showing her instinctive empathy with the solitary Boo Radley.

All in all, a gripping, powerful, engrossing and moving production of a story that still resonates strongly in 2016.

Christine Hoey

 

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