When I set up Happy & Glorious in August 2012, it followed a year of pushing my boundaries, having adventures and saying yes to more opportunities. It was a good way to get myself out of a rut that I had been experiencing in the previous year, which had left me feeling stuck and disillusioned.
From this point on, I resolved to make the most of things, and this included spending time by myself doing the things that I loved. Operas, plays, dance classes, even an overnight trip to Cornwall to see a musician that I liked, it became a freedom that was incredibly important to me. There's an initial awkwardness to attending events alone, (even after 10 years of doing so) but once the lights go down and a performance begins, noone is paying any attention to you anyway!
Covid obviously placed something of a spanner in the works for the last couple of years, but a couple of weeks ago, I had my first solo adventure in a long time.
To Kill a Mockingbird was and is still one of my favourite books. When I spotted some tickets for the production, (starring Rafe Spall as Atticus Finch) on sale for less than £20, I dusted off my boots and hopped on the train to London. An enormous thunderstorm threatened to increase my barnet size by a considerable percentage, but the train arrived just before the skies opened.
The Gielgud Theatre was a new venue for me, but the ten minute walk from Charing Cross was appealing. (I’ve never been a fan of the tube even pre-pandemic.) My bargain ticket meant that my view was restricted, but nothing a bit of leaning forward couldn’t solve.
The set design was incredibly effective; the porch of Finch’s Landing and the jury box seamlessly appeared from the wings and from above, and the actors swiftly moved furniture between scenes. A lone organist on stage throughout the production watched proceedings and created an interesting link between the audience and the players.
Told through the eyes of the three children; Scout, Jem and Dill, the play was studded with light, sweet humour. It very much captured the illogicality of the trial of an innocent man, and the coming of age for the three young leads.
I felt that Rafe Spall brought a pleasingly human, flawed nature to his portrayal of Atticus. Having seen the 1962 film many years ago, I remember finding the character of Finch as played by Gregory Peck, a little too saccharine for my tastes. I found it refreshing for the lawyer to be played as a frustrated, imperfect person, doing what needed to be done, trying to be fair, and hoping to set a good example to his children.
Whilst the book focuses a great deal on the children’s everyday lives and their enduring curiosity around the town’s recluse, Boo Radley, the play centred around the trial of Tom Robinson. Whilst this felt fresh and relevant to a 2022 audience and was beautifully put together, I felt that it lost a touch of the book’s irony to not have Boo’s final act juxtaposing quite so clearly with Tom Robinson’s innocence. The whole point of the book in my mind is the contrast - a white man’s behaviour excused and a black man‘s innocence discredited.
Some incredible performances include Jude Owusu, who played Tom Robinson with a resignation and a sweetness that was incredibly moving. Pamela Nomvete as Calpurnia had a powerful, righteous anger that she directed fully and understandably at Atticus. Patrick O’Kane brought a sinister rage to his performance as Bob Ewell, and the stage crackled with malice whenever he set foot upon it.
Those new to the story and enduring fans alike will enjoy this excellent performance, and I thoroughly recommend spending time with yourself in this way. You’ll find that you really are very good company!
To Kill a Mockingbird is on at the Gielgud Theatre until November 2022