In Review

To Kill a Mockingbird: a ‘powerfully uplifting’ theatrical event

Aaron Sorkin’s script makes this 62-year-old literary classic ‘feel like it was minted yesterday’

Aaron Sorkin’s “blistering” stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s tale of racial injustice in 1930s Alabama was a huge hit on Broadway, and it looks set to storm the West End too, said Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail.

The brilliance of Sorkin’s “Hollywood-tight script, peppered with great one-liners”, is that it makes this 62-year-old literary classic “feel like it was minted yesterday. Far from creaking like a period piece,” it is a riveting drama that “chimes with modern racial conflicts on both sides of the Atlantic”. Directed by Bartlett Sher, the production is innovative too, in the way it makes the decent white lawyer Atticus Finch “squirm” in his position as the middle-class liberal who must avoid “seeming patrician”.

Rafe Spall is “stunning” in the role of Finch, said Clive Davis in The Times. In an engrossing performance, he presents the lawyer as a courageous, but arguably naive, man whose faith in decency “may not be enough to tackle the poison lurking in his home town”.

This is a “revelatory staging” that “blazingly captures the zeitgeist”, agreed Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph. Sorkin has taken three “intelligent liberties” with the material: he has “prised the narrative viewpoint away from Finch’s admiring daughter, Scout”; stretched the pivotal rape trial right across the action instead of holding it back for the second half; and given a far greater voice to the black characters. Jude Owusu’s “solemn, sorrowful Tom Robinson breaks your heart”, while Pamela Nomvete as the Finches’ housekeeper Calpurnia “speaks volumes with every reproachful questioning look”.

Scout, Jem and Dill are all played by adults, said Arifa Akbar in The Guardian – a “high-risk venture which pays off remarkably well”. Miriam Buether’s set is “fluid, mobile and unshowily gorgeous”. The piece retains a “slight lack of subtlety”, said Nick Curtis in the London Evening Standard: Atticus is too saintly, the “kids too winsome and cheeky”. Still, this is a “powerfully uplifting” theatrical event. “All rise for a magnificent Mockingbird.”

Gielgud Theatre, London W1. Until 13 August Running time: 2hrs 50mins (incl. interval)

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