by Harper Lee adapted by Christopher Sergel.

Clwyd Theatr Cymru (Anthony Hopkins Theatre) To 27 February.

Post-show Discussion 25 Feb.
then Tour to 27 March 2010.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.

TICKETS: 0845 330 3565. (Mold)
Review: Timothy Ramsden 16 February.

Drama of a community becomes a struggle of good and evil.
Though he uses Christopher Sergel’s standard adaptation of Harper Lee’s famous novel, Mold director Tim Baker moves the story’s emphasis towards his recent production of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, also set in the 1930s. Several characters disappear and the usual setting of houses in mid-1930s Maycomb, Alabama (fictional stand-in for the racially segregated southern states) is replaced by designer Mark Bailey with a dry desert of an open space, where the actors are seen, first and last, lined-up in a row.

This is a search into conscience, in a place where life is a struggle, rather than a look at a settled community. Even the central court section is set against open space and skyscapes, while using a farm-truck in a back corner as the court gallery where defending liberal lawyer Atticus Finch’s young children look secretly on, is clumsy. Part of the responsibility is Sergel’s, giving the children obvious point-making lines, but they’re doubly hard to make convincing in this staging. Overall, neither Scout nor her brother Jem seem particularly important, despite Amy Morgan’s keen and energetic performance.

Atticus, always so obviously right, needs humanising, something Gwyn Vaughan Jones achieves apparently effortlessly. It’s a performance that’s never too emphatic, showing how the father tactfully moderates his young children’s certainty that Tom Robinson, the Black man falsely accused of raping a poor white woman, will be freed. Neither tolerance, humour nor anger is ever excessive and the result makes for a fine contrast with the other major performance here, Simon Armstrong’s White trash Bob Ewell.

Lee hardly made things difficult for herself, lining the saintly Atticus with morally flawless, unassertive Tom, who’s physically incapable of the alleged assault on Mayella Ewell (a suitable sulky, dirt-faced Rhian Blythe), while the girl’s own sexual appetite is clear. Meanwhile, Armstrong’s gum-chewing, slow-moving Ewell is menacing in his animal ignorance, slow to turn nasty because he’s slow to realise when he’s being undermined. He’s mean, and the menace is iceberg-like, mostly hidden within the lumbering frame of a creature who doesn’t rise to conscience or consideration of anything beyond his own interest.

Bob Ewell: Simon Armstrong.
Mayella Ewell: Rhian Blythe.
Heck Tate: Richard Elfyn.
Helen Robinson: Eva fontaine.
Atticus: Gwyn Vaughan Jones.
Jem: Joshua McCord.
Scout: Amy Morgan.
Calpurnia: Denise Orita.
Mr Gilmer: Alex Parry.
Rev Sykes: Reginald Tsiboe.
Tom Robinson: Oliver Wilson.

Director: Tim Baker.
Designer: Mark Bailey.
Lighting: Nick Beadle.
Sound: Kevin Heyes.
Composer/Musical Director: Dylan Jones.
Dialect coach: Sally Hague.

2010-02-21 13:43:41

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