Reviewed by on    Theatre in Ottawa and the region   ,

Photo: Maria Vartanova

Photo  Maria Vartanova

To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic novel and known by many for the nearly flawless film version of 1962. The stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel is not in the same league, but the story is worth telling and OLT does a credible job of bringing it to life.

Many of us may have come to believe that we have evolved from the ugly racist world that was prevalent prior to the social upheaval of the 60’s and the election of the United States first black President. We now know after Brexit, the election of the 45th U.S. President and the horrifying shootings in a Quebec Mosque that we still have a long way to travel before we get to the point where we have attained equality.  It is this simple. We need  eternal vigilance to protect us from our prejudices and xenophobia.

It is what To Kill A Mockingbird is about and unfortunately it is as relevant as it has ever been. Klaas Van Weringh’s set design is equally effective as an Alabama neighbourhood and as a courthouse. The set  worked most effectively when combined with Brian Cano’s lighting design in the scene at the jailhouse where we see a solitary bare light bulb revealing  Atticus Finch (David Holton) sitting outside reading his paper. He steadfastly waits for the angry white mob that is inevitably coming from the shadowy streets. This scene captured the essence of  the piece perfectly. 

Harper Lee captured the charm and the fear of a community simmering in the oppressive southern heat. Her novel  immerses you in the sweltering racial tension of the town that percolates under the outward down home charm. There is a slower pace in a rural setting that is more profoundly felt in the extreme heat. It is what magnifies the warmth and the menace of the people. Director John Collins does a credible job … However I did not get the full effect of the southern heat nor the slow deliberate pace of the people that we associate with the rural southern drawl. The speech and physicality of a region inform each other. If that had been more infused into the play it would have made it spring from the page. It would have made a good story an incredible experience.

David Holton as Atticus has his best moments when wrestling with the principals of justice during his courtroom arguments. At one point  however he removes his jacket which is so significant in the story it prompts the comment, “He never does that!” from the gallery. The tugging on the ill fitting vest that followed was distracting and made me uncomfortable, rather than help me realize the emotional state of Atticus.

The children were impressive  in their roles, in particular Meghan Docanto-Primeau as Atticus’ daughter Scout perpetually questioning her father, eventually understanding the essence of what makes him who he is. Lejla Jasarevic is quite effective as the abused Mayella Ewell. You get a very real sense that she is deceptive but that it grows out of real fear and a need for self preservation. Matt Easterbrook plays  Mayella’s father Bob with a myopic one mindedness. It’s the way things are and the way they have to be.

When you compare that mob anger mentality  with the rational and understated calm of Marcus Jones’ quiet, strong performance of  the unjustly accused Tom Robinson you come to understanding what Harper Lee was saying about justice, race and equality. Unfortunately it is a lesson that bears constant repeating.

It has been said that if you repeat a lie three times it becomes believed that it  is truth. Let’s hope that we can be more effective by repeating the truth.

By: Christopher Sergel
Director: John Collins

Scout ……………………………. Meghan Docanto-Primeau
Calpurnia ………………………. Linda Nourse
Miss Maudie …………………… Barbara Kobolak
Miss Stephanie ……………….. Angela Pelly
Judge Taylor ………………….. Sam Hanson
Heck Tate ……………………… Bernie Horton
Mrs. Dubose …………………… Lorilee Holloway
Jem ……………………………… Gavin Blackburn
Reverend Sykes ………………. Michael Wright
Mayella Ewell …………………. Lejla Jasarevic
Bob Ewell ………………………. Matt Easterbrook
Dill ………………………………. Jacob Segreto
Nathan Radley ………………… Keith Colbourne
Atticus Finch ………………….. David Holton
Mr. Cunningham ……………… Sam Hanson
Jailhouse mob …………………. Mark Blackburn, Sam Hanson, Maxime Thibault, Keith Colbourne, Matt Easterbrook
Mr. Gilmer ……………………… Maxime Thibault
Court Clerk …………………….. Keith Colbourne
Tom Robinson ………………… Marcus Jones
Choir and court spectators …. Faduma Warsame, Amanuel Abebe, Jasmine Wallace-Harder
Boo Radley ……………………… Maxime Thibault