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Richmond Players: To Kill a Mockingbird - Review by Nicole Smith

When you go to see a Richmond Players production you can be sure of one thing, you will be seeing a well crafted quality story. Western Sydney theatregoers have come to expect this standard from the company for the past 70 years and this adaptation of the Harper Lee classic is no exception.

The atmosphere was set from the moment the audience enter, with haunting music and an eerie green glow onstage. A simple and effective set, the face of a home staring out at the audience and billowing sheets lining the stage. A lonely bench extending into the audience serves as a space for the actors to talk about important things like “death or politics”.

Clever use of set pieces allows Director Matthew Barry to play with bringing his large cast from the stage, drawing the audience into the intimate world of this troubled place.

Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch (Alicia Brace) takes us into a world gone by as she narrates the event that opens up into this 2.5 hour tale. Brace is a capable narrator, she is engaging and her reflections thoughtful . Through her words we visit Alabama in the 1930’s where she saw the world through the innocent eyes of a child.

We find the younger Scout (Liesel Hussey) is loud, brash, bold and often in trouble with Calpurnia (in a wonderful performance by Norah Massige). Hussey has boundless energy as Scout, yet she is able to turn that energy inward and we see the vulnerability of a child grappling with the evils of humanity. At times you want to tell her to hush, only to want to scoop her up and protect her a moment later. Young Hussey is one to watch in the future of theatre.

Barry not only directs the action but plays Atticus Finch, Scout’s widowed father who represents a man wrongly accused of rape (played by newcomer Benjamin Kanu). He wears this hat like a wise old owl and shows us a man clinging to hope of something better even though he knows likely there is none. Barry is heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once as he tries to teach his children to walk in another man’s skin and understand humanity, whilst struggling with his own moral convictions.

I enjoyed watching the youth in this production, Jem (Luke Shiell) as big brother trying to look out for Scout while finding his own place in the world. Charles Baker Harris, also known as ‘Dill’, (Cooper Falzon) was an enjoyable character providing some entertaining moments.

The standouts were The Ewells who are simply awful. Bob Ewell (Martin Crew) head of the family, is the worst of the worst, you instantly dislike him and feel for Mayella (Orana Keen) who tragically is doing what she can to survive at his hand. I hated and pitied them all at once.

Miss Stephanie Crawford (Emma Taite), Miss Maudie Atkinson (Heloise Tolar) Mr Cunningham (Aurel Vasilescu) and Big Man (Ken Fletcher) in townsfolk roles along with the lawmen Heck Tate (John Courtney), Horace Gilmer (Peter Gollop) and Judge Taylor (Simon Peppercorn) are not to be ignored. They rounded on this tale giving it depth, character and heart along with the rest of a very wonderfully adept cast.

Lighting was a character all of its own, with moods, shadows and scenery set expertly by the tech crew. A couple of times characters were not in light, but this may have been a creative decision. Music and sound we an important addition to the production but at times we lost some dialogue.

Mockingbird is an American classic and Richmond Players Inc execute with well crafted precision under the Direction of Matthew Barry and his creative team. I came out of this show with a lump in my throat, reflecting on how even today almost 100 years later this is still sadly relevant. Theatre like this production moves people and that is quite simply magic.

4 of Miss Maudie's Azaleas out of 5

Performances Fridays and Saturdays, from August 5 – 20 at the Richmond School of Arts, West Market St, Richmond.

Photos provided by Richmond Players: Photographer - Penny Johnson

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