Tag Archives: Alison Liney

To Kill a Mockingbird – 3.5 Stars

Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

The Tower Theatre

Reviewed – 25th October 2018

★★★½

“does a good job of covering all bases, capturing a sense of small town life and effectively enforcing Lee’s message”

 

Widely read and studied to this day, the plot of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird needs no introduction. That being said, I’m going to introduce it anyway, just in case you (like me) were forced to study less interesting books like Of Mice and Men (sorry, John Steinbeck). Maycomb, Alabama, is a town where racism is a fact of everyday life – which is no surprise considering it’s the 1930s and the Jim Crow laws are still enforced. The politics of race isn’t something that Jem and Scout Finch are old enough to fully understand, but when their father Atticus is called to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of attacking a white woman, they are forced to confront it head on.

But, really, there is no adequate way to summarise To Kill a Mockingbird, because you’d inevitably miss things out. The worry is always that those adapting it will do the same, that they won’t do justice to its many themes, or neglect your favourite character. Whilst it is by no means perfect, Tower Theatre Company’s new production does a good job of covering all bases, capturing a sense of small town life and effectively enforcing Lee’s message.

The play is staged in the company’s new home in Northwold Road, Stoke Newington, which proves itself to be a versatile venue. The broad stage and high, beamed ceilings evoke the feeling of an old-fashioned courthouse in which old-fashioned attitudes are the height of modernity. Three wooden frames are redecorated to suggest different settings: Boo Radley’s house becomes the courthouse gallery, whilst Mrs Dubose’s front garden seats the judge. Visually, the production is slick and adds credibility to the action.

Tower Theatre Company are not a professional company, but many of their performances are of professional quality. Ruby Mendoza-Willcocks’ energetic and committed portrayal of Scout is a highlight. Mendoza-Willcocks perfectly captures her precocious innocence; she is entirely believable throughout. Emily McCormick, who gives a memorable performance as Scout’s friend Dill, provides welcome humour in the midst of tension. The courtroom scene, which is the highlight of the novel, is the highlight here, too, thanks to the quiet gravitas of Atticus (Simon Lee) and Tom (Jordan Duvigneau) and the contrasting anger of his accusers. They perfectly capture the injustice of the situation: Atticus’ direct address to the audience makes us complicit in Tom’s treatment and invested in his fate. Unfortunately other scenes are less evocative, as many of the supporting characters are hurried off stage before their presence can be felt. Additionally, the dialogue is sometimes hard to understand as the actors endeavour to maintain the fast pace.

This production serves to remind us of the beauty, depth, and power of Lee’s story, which is still as impactful today as it was sixty years ago. Despite the occasional slippage out of character (or, more frequently, out of accent), Tower Theatre Company have captured the heart of Lee’s novel and created a production that is as effecting as it is enjoyable.

 

Reviewed by Harriet Corke

Photography by Robert Piwko

 

The Tower Theatre

To Kill a Mockingbird

The Tower Theatre until 3rd November

 

 

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Ladykillers thespyinthestalls

The Ladykillers

Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Reviewed – 5th July 2017

 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

” a group of criminals who don’t know their Mozart from their Messiaen …”

 

When the seemingly innocent Professor Marcus, with a passion for classical music, comes knocking at the door of Mrs. Wilberforce’s home, the kind old lady is delighted to let her spare room out to this charming character . . .

Little does she know that her new tenant is also part of an amateur Musical ensemble, or shall we say a group of criminals who don’t know their Mozart from their Messiaen, intending to use her home for their plotting and planning.

In this black comedy, originally a 1955 film made by Ealing Studios, the sweet old lady Mrs. Wilberforce has a lot of time on her hands and often reverts to her wild imagination, inventing bizarre speculations and subsequently entertaining the local police officers with her stories.

How ironic when suddenly she has become involved with a group of criminals – will the police believe her this time?

The quintet of criminals are a delightful contrast to one another, with Professor Marcus being the well spoken conductor and mastermind of the group. On first and second violin we have Louis the no nonsense hit man and Harry, the young and clumsy one. On Viola, The Major, who is a bit of a nervous wreck and enjoys wearing women’s clothes, lastly on cello there is the moronic yet loveable One Round who may turn out to have a heart of gold, but just isn’t ‘all there’.

With this group of virtuosos, what could possibly go wrong?

Alison Liney portrays the perfect mix of the innocent, harmless yet opinionated and fiesty Mrs. Wilberforce – you wouldn’t want to cross her! Whilst Ed Malcolmson brings the character of Professor Marcus to life with over the top charm, graces and a terribly prim and proper accent.

The set, designed by Michael Bettell, Jude Chalk and Bernard Brennan instantly transports the audience back to their own grandmother’s living room – expertly combining a classic floral pattern with military photographs and of course, a good tea cosy.

Lynda Twidale has got it spot on with costume in this production – the ‘band’its look right at home both as musicians off duty or under cover gangsters.

Further highlights from this performance include an impromptu concert for some of Mrs. Wilberforce’s elderly friends (think scratchy strings, atonal madness and somewhat ‘expressive’ playing), a delightful display of femininity from The Major once he discovers Mrs. Wilberforce’s favourite yellow dress and the timely chirpings of General Gordon, Mrs. Wilberforce’s parrot.

What will be in store for the final movement?

 

Reviewed by Stephanie Legg

Photography by David Sprecher

 

Upstairs at the Gatehouse thespyinthestalls

 

THE LADYKILLERS

is at Upstairs at The Gatehouse until 15th July

 

 

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