Monday, October 22, 2012


Free Rain  Theatre

Canberra Theatre Centre Studio 19 October to 4 November

19 October Performance Reviewed by Len Power

There surely can’t be many people who don’t know Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ either from the original Pulitzer Prize winning novel published in 1960 or the classic 1962 movie based on the novel.  Free Rain have set themselves quite a challenge with their decision to stage the play version written by Christopher Stergel in 1990.  Those familiar with the novel or the movie will have a vivid memory of the characters as they first encountered them and will expect a similar emotional attachment to them from the play.

L. to R.: Colin Boldra, Ben Burgess, Maddison Smith-Catlin, Lori Raffan, Martin Hoggart and Colin Gray

 Cleverly designed by Cate Clelland, the abstract setting creates a small town atmosphere immediately.  The costumes by Fiona Leach evoked the 1930s, looked good on the cast and complemented the setting.

Set in 1935, the story focusses on the trial of a black man accused of raping a white girl.  Atticus Finch, the lawyer defending the accused, tries to make some sense for his children of the adult issues about justice and right and wrong.  It is this interaction that creates the emotional involvement in this story.  We remember our own puzzlement as children about adult issues beyond our understanding and we also identify as parents trying to protect but at the same time educate our children about the less pleasant aspects of life.

The large cast create believable and memorable characters, all speaking with credible southern American accents.  Michael Sparks, the dialogue coach, has done an excellent job with the cast.  In the larger roles, Steph Roberts shines as a down to earth country woman who is also the narrator.  Brian Daley gives an excellent portrayal of a small town judge, Judge Taylor and Tony Falla gives a chillingly strong performance as the violent Bob Ewell.  Megan Johns was a haunting Mayelle Ewell, the pathetic victim of the attack.  Colin Boldra, in the large role of the lawyer and father, Atticus Finch, gave a tentative performance on opening night that did not quite deliver the emotional impact that this role should provide.  A revelation amongst the cast was young Maddison Smith-Catlin who played the lawyer’s daughter, Scout, to perfection.  There were also fine, deeply-felt performances from Martin Hoggart and Ben Burgess as the other two youngsters.

L. to R. Maddison Smith-Catlin, Martin Hoggart and Ben Burgess
 A few years ago it would have been almost impossible to fully cast a play like this one with its requirement of three black actors.  It’s good to see cast members, Ewem Etuknwa, David Kinyua and Joyce Waweru taking their place in this ensemble and performing such believable characters.

Director, Liz Bradley, has captured the atmosphere of this small town and its people very well with her well-chosen ensemble of actors and the technical aspects of the production.  She has ensured that her cast give very real, in depth performances, providing an excellent and thought-provoking evening at the theatre.

Photographs by Family Fotographics

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 21 October 2012

1 comment:

  1. "A few years ago it would have been almost impossible to fully cast a play like this one with its requirement of three black actors."

    You mean, like 2003, when Free-Rain last did this play, with a full compliment of black actors?