Review: To Kill a Mocking Bird at The Alhambra, Bradford ****

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HAVING been perched in York during February, local audiences have had double the chance to enjoy this stage reprise of Harper Lee’s classic drama.

Later this month it lands in Bradford for a week-long run in which director Damian Cruden’s vision is showcased once more.

And it’s a very worthy vision too, even if it doesn’t always work.

The set is dominated by a lattice of woodwork, with even the opening scene separating the stage from the audience with a series of wooden strips. This is quickly raised but there’s an initial, uncomfortable sense of being caged.

But this quickly dispels leaving you with the sense of nothingness. The only other distraction are the fronts of houses occupied by the lead character, lawyer Atticus Finch, and their peculiar neighbour, the recluse Boo Radley.

There is also, at various stages, a projection on the back of the stage featuring out of focus camera footage and animation which is intended to add some colour to a first half which often feels drawn out and visually uninspiring.

It certainly isn’t as engaging a presentation as the version that ran at West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2006.

No matter, the second half is largely occupied by the drama of the courtroom where Finch desperately tries to save the life of a black man accused of rape.

Duncan Preston is out of this world as the principled hero, giving a performance which is so natural that it’s overwhelming.

The whole cast is strong, but they all partially stand in the shadow of Preston, partly because of his acting ability and partly because the character is so dominating.

Lovers of Harper Lee, quality literature and courtroom drama will adore this, but even those with no more than a passing interest in a good story, well performed will find something to love in this play.

The production doesn’t enhance the action too much, but luckily To Kill A Mocking Bird doesn’t require much enhancing.

Rod McPhee

l March 29 to April 2, The Alhambra, Morley Street, Bradford, 7.30pm, Wed mat 2pm, Sat mat 2.30pm, £10.50 to £24. Tel: 01274 432000. www.bradford-theatres.co.uk

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