To Kill a Mockingbird at The Barbican

to kill a mockingbird book cover

To Kill a Mockingbird is, without a doubt, my favourite book of all time. I first read it for GCSE English and I distinctly remember being on holiday with my family somewhere in England, stuck in the back of the car, and practically wailing out loud. It moved me in a way no book had ever done before. It highlighted injustice and love within an area of history I knew very little about, and in a part of America that I hardly even knew existed. I have read it countless times since and it still has the same affect on me now as it did back then.

I booked tickets for the stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird in September, having been slack and missing the performance at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. To be honest, I didn’t book tickets for that because I just didn’t want to be disappointed. I couldn’t bear to have this precious story torn apart in front of my eyes, so I kept conveniently putting it off. But the reviews were insane, so when it was announced it would be reprised at The Barbican, I booked for me and AJ straight away. And I have been looking forward to it, yet simultaneously dreading seeing it performed on stage. The normal ‘What if they butcher it?’ scenarios went through my head, but it was worth taking a punt. So I took my fancy book clutch and I donned a necklace with a bird on in honour of the play’s title, and I prepped myself for the worst.

theatre ticket

I can’t even begin to tell you how magical this play is. It is perfect. The story is told by a series of narrators, each taking it in turns to read Scout’s words from real copies of the original published work. The stage is scrawled over with chalk to show the different locations the characters travel to; a big tree with a tyre swing hanging from it the only solid feature throughout.

It delicately captured the naivety of Scout, Jem and Dill, stunningly showing how they are constantly baffled by the actions of adults, and how racism really is the most confusing curse on their small town. Robert Sean Leonard (better known as Wilson from House) was blinding as Atticus Finch; stern, calm, loving, fair and unwaveringly courageous. He is my favourite literary hero and this play truly did him justice. AJ and I cried throughout which I’m glad about as I always cry when reading the book and this reaction proved to me that the play was worth the heartache.

I won’t go into details of the plot in case you haven’t read it (and if you haven’t read it, go do that first), but it wasn’t just the courthouse scene that felt like the ‘main’ part of the story. It was so neatly knitted together that every moment seemed important and that’s exactly how Scout would feel as a child experiencing so many new and strange things. The moral compass of the story is obviously huge, preaching tolerance, acceptance and understanding, not just within the confines of race, but to all people. It is a work of exceptional beauty, creating calm within a storm of unfair circumstances, and for a play to be able to portray all of that emotion without seeming contrived is extremely impressive.

To Kill a Mockingbird is on at The Barbican until 25th July

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