Theatre / “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Canberra Rep. At Theatre 3 until April 13. Reviewed by ARNE SJOSTEDT
I’VE noticed there are at least two camps when it comes to “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Those who revere it and speak highly of Harper Lee’s masterwork and those who, for some reason, never quite understood all of the fuss.
Nevertheless, it is an American/international institution and this play has the power to change any serious doubter’s minds.
Subtexts aside, the primary message is obvious to us all, and the power of such a narrative is not lost even on modern ears. The injustice of a man who, because of his race, was found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit is palpable in this production, as it is in the novel.
And this casts your mind and emotions deep into the history of all of the mistreated men and women who have suffered for no reason other than they were born into the wrong race, class or social structure.
Michael Sparks as Atticus Finch was superb, and portrayed the lawyer with the right touch of humility, learned experience and fatherly affection. Importantly, under director Anne Somes’ hand, Sparks patiently and skillfully lead the play, and shone during the courtroom scene, as Bob and Mayella Ewell (Tim Stiles and Stephanie Wilson) give their evidence against the ill-fated Tom Robinson.
- These were by far the most engaging moments. In particular, Wilson’s work as Mayella was utterly enthralling and completely drew me into the action, to the point where for the first time that night I was totally lost in the action. She was Mayella, as Stiles inhabited Bob.
Overall, Somes’ and cast carefully guided the audience through Christopher Sergel’s adaptation with a sense of enjoyment. In a muted set that opened up the Theatre 3 space well, some of the actors were lost on the opening night’s performance. The thunder and rain outside notwithstanding, cast would do well to consider clearer projection over accent and character. A more agile movement through the dialogue and cues would also have also helped with pacing and sense of drama.
In her directorial debut for REP, Somes and cast have made sure Lee’s timeless tale is available for new generations to understand and appreciate and, hopefully, learn from.