14 May 2015

To Kill a Mockingbird at Richmond Theatre was precise, stylish and great entertainment

I am well aware that To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic book and a classic film but my only encounter with either had been limited to watching the film out of guilt early one morning (by early I mean around 2am) after a good night in the pub. There was still a lot of cultural guilt left so when the highly regarded theatre adaptation escaped to Richmond Theatre from the West End I was keen to go.

Part of my keenness was my attempt to get friendlier with Richmond Theatre. It was my second closest theatre, beaten only by the Rose in Kingston, and I felt more guilt for not going there more often.

The evening started with a mad panic as the journey back from Reading did not go remotely to plan with trains missed and delayed. I even thought about getting a taxi from Feltham only there is no rank there.

Eventually I was saved by a train from Feltham that had not started in Reading and a slightly delayed start to the theatre. I got to Richmond at 7:28 and just got to my seat, Dress Circle A23 (£32), with seconds to spare. I hate working in Reading.

To Kill a Mockingbird was a gentle tale about dark deeds told with precision and style. The main theme and some of the story I knew from my one viewing of the film but there was much in the detail that I did not know, or had forgotten, or which was not in the film. Tom Robinson and Boo Radley were two of those new details.



There were echoes of Curious Incident in the way that the town was drawn out in chalk on the stage and the technique worked well with only simple props needed, like a gate or a chair, to indicate another house. That let the action move freely across the town without any long breaks for scene changes. I liked that as it kept the story flowing nicely and I do not go to the theatre  to watch scenery being changed.

The production lacked gimmickry and just got on with its difficult job quietly and professionally. It was clever but the clever bit was that you did not notice that it was clever because it looked simple too. And that is how I like things.



There was a large cast and while there were some main characters and some main character moments, such as Atticus Finch's long speech at the trial of Tom Robinson, it was the quality of the ensemble that made the play a success. There were no signs of the cast going through the routine of another night in another town, it seemed to be as fresh and new to them as it was to us.

To Kill a Mockingbird was a joy from start to finish. It was accomplished, engaging and, above all, entertaining.

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