Review: Enraging, compelling ‘Mockingbird’

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{caption}From left, Maddison Smith-Catlin, Ben Burgess, Martin Hogg, and Colin Boldra as Atticus. Photo by Family Fotographics{/caption}THIS ambitious production of a play based on by Harper Lee’s 1960s Pulitzer Prizewinning novel will always have the celebrated Gregory Peck film to contend with.

Director Liz Bradley and her cast met that challenge squarely, though the audience had to listen carefully as the focus wandered across the large cast, crammed into a complicated set by Cate Clelland that conjured up a steamy summer in a small Alabama town.

Given the tiny stage at the Courtyard Studio, stage traffic jams were inevitable, exacerbated by the director’s decision to show us offstage characters through the latticework. One consequence was that the mysterious Boo Radley (Rob Mitchell) lost some of his mystery.

A mishmash of Southern accents is hard to avoid in a non-professional production, so that Steph Roberts as Miss Maudie and Kathy Gray as Miss Stephanie stood out for authenticity in an uneven vocal landscape.

Maddison Smith-Catlin as the precocious daughter Scout is initially too loud, but mellows into a sensitive performance. As her adolescent older brother Jem, Martin Hogg effectively portrays a maturing sense of injustice, while as their friend Dill, Ben Burgess adds a touch of wise whimsy.

In a coup for Free Rain,  three quietly impressive African-born actors play the black American roles – Joyce Waweru as Calpurnia, Ewen Atuknwa as Rev Sykes and David Kinyua as the accused, Tom.

As the honourable father/lawyer, Atticus Finch, Colin Boldra acted with understated authority, holding the audience spellbound in his famous courtroom speech that upholds the dignity and equality of man. Peter Holland’s aggressive performance as the prosecuting counsel paved the way for the speech, obviously filling the audience with rage.

The cast’s capacity to move and enrage us at the same time ultimately makes for a compelling “Mockingbird.”

{caption}David Kinyua as the accused, Tom Robinson, background, Peter Holland as prosecutor Gilmer. Photo by Family Fotographics{/caption}

 

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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