Whatever the facts behind this week's announcement that novelist Harper Lee is set to publish Go Set a Watchman, a novel presumed lost for fifty-five years and featuring a grown-up version of Scout Finch, the narrator of her much-loved debut, there is no better time to stage To Kill A Mockingbird. Especially when it is such a poignantly evocative take on Lee's story as it is here in Timothy Sheader's touring production, which visits Edinburgh and Aberdeen following this week's Glasgow run of a piece originally produced by the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in London.
It opens with twelve actors lining the stage wearing modern dress, reading the opening pages of Lee's novel in their own accents from the books held open before them. As each steps in and out of character, lining either side of Jon Bausor's wide-open set throughout as Luke Potter plays his live acoustic guitar score, this opens out Lee's treatise on tolerance and justice using her own rich words alongside Christopher Sergel's sturdy adaptation. It also conjures up a 1920s deep south community damaged by poverty, prejudice and a culture of blame, as Scout, her brother Jem and their friend Dill witness the trial of innocent young black man Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman.
At the play's moral centre is Scout's lawyer father Atticus, played with quiet compassion by Daniel Betts. There are similarly exquisite performances throughout, with three astonishing turns from Ava Potter, Arthur Franks and Connor Brundish, one of three teams of children playing the leads in a heart-rending and unmissable plea for justice in a cruel world.
The Herald, February 5th 2015