New Theatre Sydney's production of "To Kill a Mockingbird" is surprisingly gentle, for a play about rape, murder and racial discrimination. The story of discrimination in small town USA is told from the point of view of the nine year old daughter of local lawyer. Teagan Croft gives a career making performance as the precocious nine year old "Scout", wise beyond her years, but still a little girl trying to make sense of injustice in an adult world. She is ably supported by two other child actors, Hudson Musty as "Jem" and Kaj Lewis "Dill". The adults also give good performances, although at times it was all looking and sounding a little too much like "Little Orphan Annie".
Christopher Sergel's adoption of the novel by Harper Lee struggles to emerge from the shadow of the 1962 academy award winning film. The courtroom scenes are well handled, but the defending lawyer's closing remarks on fairness overcoming prejudice go on a little too long.
Sasha Sinclair's set showing a poor small town street works well, also doubling as the courtroom. However, the use of a single old fashioned light-bulb, which descends from above and the disappears again, was distracting and a bit silly.
In the end this production is a little too safe, being set in a distance country in the past, so the audience can say: "we would not do that". Far more effective was "seven kilometres north-east". Perhaps Director Annette Rowlison should have moved Mockingbird to Australia in the present day, with an Australian indigenous person accused.
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