I’m not usually one for plays. With limited time, funding and a wealth of options available in the West End there is almost always a musical I want to see that trumps my desire to sit through a play. However, there are rare occasions when I can’t quite resist, this was one of those.
Since our first trip in 2010, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre has been a staple of my summer theatre-going schedule. It’s a stunning setting and nothing quite beats the satisfaction of booking on a night that skilfully misses the rain (we’ve been seven times over three years and not witnessed a drop!). With an always varied, high quality season of limited summer runs there is something for everyone; as the night draws in, breeze rustling through the leaves on the trees, birds floating from branch to branch (and the odd plane flying over London!)it’s difficult not to feel like you’re witnessing something special.
The best productions at Regent’s park are those that can use the space authentically (a viewpoint that perhaps originates from seeing Into the Woods there first). The high street focus of To Kill A Mockingbird allowed for this, although the set left a lot to the imagination (we were literally given a framework to colour in with our minds) – I enjoyed its simplicity. It allowed the setting I had imagined upon first reading the novel to stay with me, whether intentional or not, this is something I am grateful for.
The play was a mixture of narration (read directly from the novel) and dialogue; I found the narration a slightly lazy device, however, in hindsight I appreciate that without extensive use of monologues it might have been quite difficult to portray some of Scouts most profound, well known and almost clichéd thoughts.
The cast was very robust, with Robert Sean Leonard giving a textbook portrayal of Atticus. Particular kudos has to be given to the young cast: Eleanor Worthington-Cox (Scout), Callum Henderson (Jem) and Sebastian Clifford (Dill) all gave a performance miles beyond their years. Having thoroughly enjoyed Eleanor’s performance as one of the original London Matildas I was delighted to see her on stage again … a definite star in the making.
Overall, we had a stunning night at the theatre. If you’ve read the novel, the play was exactly as you would hope and expect. Having studied the text in detail at school it was particularly poignant to hear some of the more famous lines delivered before my eyes … I was certainly not the only member of the audience to shed a quiet tear.
To Kill A Mockingbird returns to the open air theatre for a limited run in 2014 … definitely not one to be missed.