Review: Robert Sean Leonard is Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird, @BarbicanCentre
Harper Lee's classic novel was one of a small handful of books read during my formative years that has left an indelible mark so I was mixture of excitement and nerves going to see this stage version.
This production of Christopher Sergel's adaptation, directed by Timothy Sheader, originated at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in 2013, where it sold out two runs before touring and this residence at the Barbican - so the signs were good. It also stars Robert Sean Leonard of House and Dead Poets Society fame.
Leonard plays Atticus the lawyer chosen to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman in 1930's small town Alabama.
The story in the book is told the through the eyes of his young daughter Scout (Rosie Boore*) who, together with her older brother Jem (Billy Price) and friend Dill (Milo Panni) obsess about the reclusive Boo Radley who lives next door and plot to try and get him to come out.
It is so with the stage production but Scout's voice doesn't come just from Boore but also the ensemble who each carry a copy of the novel from which they take turns to read passages. The result is an intoxicating mixture of story time and acting, blending seamlessly the enduring charm of reading the novel with the thrill of watching live theatre.
Where the play really comes into its own is in the court room scene superbly capturing the tension, prejudice and injustice. Like Scout, Jem and Dill who sneak into the gallery to watch you hang on every word.
The power of the novel was in exposing the injustice of racism through innocence and youthful logic. The world of Scout, Jem and Dill had such a warmth and charm to it just made it all the more powerful and this stage production captures that perfectly. The child actors lovably exude that innocence and logic and Leonard plays Atticus with a great warmth, fatherly patience and the melancholy of loss.
There is original music composed and performed by Phil King as part of the ensemble which all adds up to make this production is devastatingly huggable - l laughed and cried and sometimes at the same time.
You can catch To Kill A Mockingbird at the Barbican Theatre until July 25 and it is two hour and a half hours long including an interval.
* There are three different actors for each of the child roles, this was the cast the night I saw it.