Review: To Kill a Mockingbird ****

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At York Theatre Royal

To Kill a Mockingbird has been part of school English syllabuses for as long as anyone can remember, its 1962 film adaptation was a classic, and its reclusive author, Harper Lee is noted for never having published another novel.

So it’s something of a triumph that director Damien Cruden takes the well-worn tale of prejudice in America’s Deep South and brings to the stage something which feels fresh and new.

Duncan Preston, best-known to some as Victoria Wood’s straight man, fills Gregory Peck’s shoes as Atticus Finch. He might not have been an obvious choice for the part and his courtroom speeches could have done with a little more rousing spirit, but Preston brings an understated charm to the deeply moral lawyer who stares racism in the face.

However, the real success of the piece lies with the Finch children, with an older version of the unrepentant tomboy Scout (Jacqueline Wood) acting as narrator. Grace Rowe and Matthew Pattimore shine as the young Scout and Jem, their childlike innocence a foil for adult prejudice.

Justice might not be done in To Kill a Mockingbird, but it’s hard not leave this production without at the very least a feeling of hope.

To February 26.