The stage version of To Kill a Mockingbird, currently showing at MK Theatre, proves that, if the story is good enough and the actors telling it are talented enough, there is no need for fancy props or elaborate special effects.
The staging is stripped back so far the actors literally chalk the words ‘house’ and ‘street’ onto the floor at the start of the show to give the audience some semblance of a setting.
The boundaries between the audience and the performers seems deliberately blurred as they melt on to the stage, while one performer, armed with a banjo, provides a short musical interlude.
Standing on the side of the stage, the actors then take it in turns to play the narrator or one of the characters.
Director Timothy Sheader certainly achieves his aim of making the Harper Lee novel the “beating heart of the action” and making the audience feel like they are a shared group, sat round a campfire listening to a story.
Another great decision made by Sheader and his casting director Jessica Ronane is the choice of Rosie Boore to play the central character Scout.
The youngster shows maturity beyond her years in performing large chunks of dialogue that bring to life the endearingly pugnacious girl who is able to reduce an aggressive rabble of men to a retreating set of shame-faced individuals.
Boore is ably supported by Billy Price, who plays her older brother Jem, and Milo Panni, who plays her ‘childhood fiancé’ Dill; with all three children achieving the difficult task of saying their lines in a convincing south American accent.
But Daniel Betts, who plays the God-like figure of Atticus Finch, perhaps puts in the performance of the night, culminating in his spine-chilling closing speech to the jury during the trial of Tom Robinson.
Taking up a large section of the second half of the play, the trial is a standout highlight of a production that maintains the attention throughout.
Continuing the shared-group theme, as an audience member it feels as if you are sat in the courtroom listening to Atticus Finch pull apart the evidence against his client.
Following the shocking conviction of Tom Robinson, the book meanders towards a conclusion and this is the only point at which the stage version also feels slightly disjointed.
The final scene feels slightly rushed but it is not enough to detract from a simple, clever and reverential production that pays homage to the enduring power of Harper Lee’s words.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a book everyone should read. To Kill a Mockingbird the play is a production theatre fans must go and watch.
The play is being performed at MK Theatre until Saturday, March 14. To book go to www.atgtickets.com