Review: To Kill A Mockingbird (Young People’s Theatre)

To Kill A Mockingbird, YPT

Toronto’s Young People’s Theatre presents To Kill A Mockingbird as a play adapted for young audiences

When I first heard that Young People’s Theatre was opening their forty-ninth season with To Kill A Mockingbird I was admittedly a little skeptical. Could a play with such heavy subject matter be successfully staged for younger audiences? The answer is, undoubtedly, yes. YPT’s solid production manages to embody this story’s message of conviction and courage without shying away from its harsher themes of racism and injustice.

Originally published back in 1960, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird has gone on to become one of the most revered modern books. Its story of an Alabama lawyer who attempts to defend a black man on trial has reached far beyond the library and into classrooms where it has become essential curriculum. And it’s for good reason: the play explores many themes, the most important arguably being the loss of childhood innocence.

Young People’s Theatre does a fine job in all aspects of their production. The large ensemble convincingly brings to life these characters with several of the actors playing multiple roles. Two of my favourites include Lisa Berry as Calpurnia, the Finch’s stern maid who provides many humorous moments, and Hume Baugh, who, as the racist Bob Ewell, fully embraces the ugliness of his character.

The southern accents, lingo, and costumes all bring authenticity to the southern-gothic atmosphere of the production. These elements, coupled with a subtle but effective set design by Dana Osbourne, easily transport the audience to the depression era Deep South.

The theatre space is used to maximum effect — especially during the pivotal courtroom scene. The cast members use of the entire theatre space makes you feel like you’re part of the story. It’s a great choice by director Allen MacInnis, and it makes the sense of injustice all the more powerful because you’re unable to prevent it.

Dedicated fans of both the novel and film may find this condensed version of the story lacking in certain details, but given that it’s being told in a different medium, this should be expected and forgiven. This show, after all, is geared towards a younger demographic and when it comes to exploring its many themes, YPT’s production of To Kill A Mockingbird hits all the right notes.

A timeless classic, To Kill A Mockingbird’s themes still resonate after 54 years. And while it’s subject matter can be hard to take at times, it’s a vital piece of work that deserves to be examined. YPT has created a production that serves its mandate perfectly. It’s a show which will allow it’s younger audiences to experience and learn about the harsh realities of the world-some of them perhaps for the first time.


Photo of Matthew G. Brown, Mark Crawford, Jeff Miller, and W. Joseph Matheson by Cylla von Tiedemann