Story for Friday
Recommended by Daniel Austin – Director
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee (1960)
This was one of my O-level set texts for English Literature back in 1982 at Langley Grammar School. It was taught by a superb English Teacher – Miss Louise Hemingway – and I still have my exercise book with all my notes and answers to the various questions set.
The novel has never been out of print since it was first published in 1960; was made into an Oscar-winning film in 1962 for which Gregory Peck won Best Actor; and adapted into an enduring stage play by Christopher Sergel in 1990.
It is a Southern Gothic and Bildungsroman novel that deals with racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. But it also explores societal issues of class and gender and is considered to be a story of compassion, courage and humour.
Harper Lee was a childhood friend of the writer Truman Capote (is Dill Truman?), studied Law, but she was a reluctant celebrity after its phenomenal reception, the Pulitzer Prize and Hollywood recognition.
Since studying the novel in 1982, I have re-read it regularly and for 30+ years I had wanted to direct the piece. Back in 2015, I even flew over to the Barbican Centre for the day one Saturday to see a matinee performance starring Robert Sean Leonard as Atticus. I almost missed the last plane back!
In July 2018 Jersey Arts Centre presented its own production of Sergel’s adaptation on the Benjamin Meaker stage with 16 actors. I had been waiting 30 years for the right Scout, Jem and Atticus Finch to come along – and be the right ages – so when they all did, a small dream came true. And we were incredibly blessed to have a super actor playing Tom Robinson who brought grace, compassion and vulnerability to the role and the company. It was a superb cast of 16. There were 531 attendances at our three performances with Stage and Lighting Design by Graeme Humphries and Costume Design by Nick Carver.
‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is certainly in my top 5 of the 91 plays that I have directed.
Take a look at Atticus’ summing up speech from the 1962 movie with Gregory Peck and directed by Robert Mulligan.
The above entry marks our 400th recommendation for the day after 16 weeks and since Monday 23 March – thank you for reading them all – and Happy Anniversary!
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