As the house lights dim, the cast emerge from the wings and make themselves comfortable at the front of the stage. They each hold up a weather-beaten copy of Harper Lee’s classic and, in turns, start reading.
It’s a sentimental touch that evokes the classroom setting where many of us first heard the story – To Kill A Mockingbird remains one of the English-speaking world’s most-studied texts.
The cast continue to pop up throughout the play, reading the occasional passage to the audience in their natural accents before withdrawing again.
A musician, played by Luke Potter, adds a sporadic Southern refrain with his ukulele, adding to the excellent narration of the story.
We are transported back to the ‘tired old town’ of Maycomb in America’s deep south, where a black man, Tom Robinson, played by Zackary Momah, has been accused of raping a white woman.
It is through the eyes of tomboy Scout Finch, played with a slightly comic innocence by Ava Potter, we confront the racism of small-town Alabama.
A judge has appointed Scout’s dad Atticus, played by Daniel Betts, to defend him, and the courtroom scene takes up most of the second half of the play.
Betts is outstanding as the liberal advocate, bringing depth and humility to the role which has inspired more students to want to become lawyers than perhaps any other in literature.
As Scout, her brother Jem and head-in-the-clouds friend Dill root for Tom from the ‘coloured balcony’, the audience roots for Scout, hoping she’ll be able to hold onto her courage, conviction and faith in doing what is right.
It’s an enchanting rendition of a story that has won its way into many hearts.