To Kill a Mockingbird, a gripping drama about racial tensions set in 1930s Alabama, could have seemed a strange choice for the first ever school production from a new, Northern Irish Grammar school in 2018, but believe me – it was not - this play was an absolute triumph.
Special mention must go to the trio of talent that drive the story from the opening scene until the curtain closes: Helen Reid as Jean-Louise Finch, the story’s retrospective narrator – Helen’s spellbinding eloquence, faultless southern accent and measured pace drew the entire audience deep into the heart of Alabama; Ellie Mullan as Scout Finch, the young Jean Louise – Ellie was also mesmeric, flawlessly portraying that perfect blend of innocence and precocious determination needed for the role; and then there was Ryan Lodge as Atticus, the patriarch and soul of the story – Ryan was amazing. He seamlessly encapsulated that mix of patient father, caring neighbour and firebrand lawyer with a skill and grace that belied his years.
In Act One we met Jem Finch, perfectly performed by Luke Noel, and the irrepressible Dill, charmingly and humorously portrayed by Keira McIlveen. We also watched Molly Millar’s self-assured turn as the indomitable Cal, Natasha Marshall’s graceful Miss Maudie and Isabel McFerran entertained in her scene-stealing role as the scathing Miss Dubose. Diana Matthewson, with wicked fan skills, sassed-up the stage in style as neighbourhood scold, Miss Stephanie. In Act Two, Rebecca Connor kept all in order with her measured tone as Judge Taylor, Calum Beggs perfectly represented the sneering lawyer Mr. Gilmer, and Jonathan Green was assured and affable throughout in his impressive turn as the sheriff of the county, Heck Tate. The metaphorical mockingbird Tom Robinson was depicted with great conviction and pathos by Adam Morrow. Counterpoint to Tom, is the repulsive Bob Ewell, and Adam Brownlee effortlessly reflected his snarling character. One chraacterisation that stood out was Megan McMullan’s turn as Mayella Ewell.
The last stage production I watched of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ was a big-budget, professional performance in Dublin, in 2015, and it was very good...but this was better.