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Friday 9 December 2016

Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird, Bord Gais Energy Theatre
To Kill a Mockingbird, Bord Gais Energy Theatre

A massive group storytelling session or a proper slice of contemporary theatre?

It's a bit of both, actually. Christopher Sergel's fanciful adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird boasts several narrators to go with its imaginative set-up. How many other plays come with a giant chalkboard for a stage?

Bearing all the warmth of Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Mockingbird: The Play is an ambitious piece of work. But it's also rather messy. The problem is its structure.

On the one hand, we've got an epic classroom piece where the readers are supposed to over-enunciate and over-act everything. On the other, we've got a play where the actors (the same lads, without their books) utilise a similar bag of tricks. Nope, doesn't work.

The end result is an over-stuffed melodrama where the elders literally look to the ceiling for dramatic effect, and sugared-up child stars squeal and stomp for your attention.

defend

Set in 1930s Alabama, Lee's absorbing tale centres on a strong-willed lawyer, Atticus Finch, whose decision to defend a young black man accused of rape, causes a stir not just among the townsfolk, but also in his family.

His precocious daughter, Scout, asks a hell of a lot of questions. It's a wonderful book (and film), but we've yet to crack the theatre code.

Junior Cert students in the audience should take note that not all theatre looks as try-hard and shouty as this.

A handful of the ideas here are brilliant, such as the stage designs, but the chirpy, multitasking cast members grate, and Mockingbird is far too many things at once.

It's an after-school special, basically, and I've seen better acting in an episode of Casualty. Some of the cast will wreck your head (Daniel Betts going full-on Gregory Peck), others will warm your heart (Ava Potter's Scout).

The courtroom scenes work well enough, but that bearded Mumford chap on soundtrack duty has got to go. A terribly uneven play.

Ends Saturday HHIII

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