REVIEW: To Kill A Mockingbird, Theatre Royal, Newcastle, Until April 25

TIMELESS TALE ... To Kill A Mockingbird is at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle.
TIMELESS TALE ... To Kill A Mockingbird is at the Theatre Royal, Newcastle.
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HARPER Lee’s famous novel came to life on stage last night.

The characters seemed to have jumped right from the pages as the play came to Newcastle’s Theatre Royal from the West End.

To Kill A Mockingbird had been forever on my ‘to read’ list. With press night fast approaching, I decided it was now or never to read the classic American novel, and I was completely swept up by it.

The story of Scout and her brother Jem growing up in the Deep South in the 1930s, while their lawyer father, Atticus Finch, is defending a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman, is just absolutely compelling.

Seeing the complicated issues through the innocent eyes of young tomboy Scout is a wonderful touch and young actress Jemima Bennett captured the wise maturity of her character fantastically.

After finishing the book, I was very curious to see how it would be done on stage, and I was blown away by it.

The sub-plot was pretty much missing, but of course a word-for-word performance would have run for too long.

The main crux of the story is very true to Lee’s book, and each performance is as passionate as the words deserve.

The play began with supporting cast members walking up to the stage, each holding a copy of the book, and reading a small section each to set the scene, before drawing a child-like map of the neighbourhood on the stage with chalk.

They acted as narrators throughout the show, dipping into the book and reading a short segment every now and again, as well as filling the roles of the supporting characters like Miss Maudie, Heck Tate, Tom Robinson, Calpurnia and the mysterious Boo Radley.

Jemima Bennett stars as Scout, Harry Bennett as Jem and Leo Heller as Dill.

Jemima Bennett stars as Scout, Harry Bennett as Jem and Leo Heller as Dill.

Daniel Betts was wonderful as Atticus – his passionate performance moved me to tears – but the show very much belongs to the children.

Jemima acts alongside her real-life brother Harry Bennett as Jem, and Leo Heller stars as their visiting friend Dill. The threesome really are a force to be reckoned with and definitely have a future in the industry – they’re better than some actors I’ve seen twice their age.

Their southern American accents never faltered and they were completely consumed by their characters.

The audience was totally sucked into the story by the youngsters.

It would be a sin to miss To Kill A Mockingbird while it’s in town.

The set, which included a huge tree – complete with a tyre swing – was quite bare, but it was extremely effective.

The use of chalk drawings to tell the audience where they were and doors and fences that could be propped up on the stage were simple touches that transformed the scene remarkably.

Music in the show is also used wonderfully. Cast member Luke Potter provides the soundtrack, playing an acoustic guitar and harmonica.

The show is compelling, emotional and thought-provoking. It would be a sin to miss To Kill A Mockingbird while it’s in town.

To Kill A Mockingbird runs at the Theatre Royal until Saturday, April 25. Click here to book tickets.

Twitter: @ShieldsGazVicki

The children watch Tom Robinson's court case.

The children watch Tom Robinson's court case.