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To Kill a Mockingbird at Stirling Theatre

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To Kill A Mockingbird goes from page to stage
To Kill A Mockingbird, Stirling Theatre, Atticus Finch, Harper Lee, play, performing arts, stage, acting, Scout, Jem
Heck Tate (Nicolas Kadmos, left), Tom Robinson (Kundai Gotore) and Atticus Finch (Justin Markham) in To Kill A Mockingbird.


Harper Lee's masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird is being brought to life on the Stirling Theatre stage. Adapted by Christopher Sergel and directed by Jane Sherwood, the Pulitzer Prize-winner is set during the Great Depression in a sleepy Alabama town where Scout and her brother Jem live with their widowed father Atticus Finch.

When a young black man is accused of a terrible crime, Atticus defends the man in a trial that sends violent waves through the community. "To Kill a Mockingbird is a tale of racism, hatred and crime," Jane said.

To Kill A Mockingbird, Stirling Theatre, Atticus Finch, Harper Lee, play, performing arts, stage, acting, Scout, Jem
The townsfolk watching the trial in To Kill A Mockingbird played by Julie Holmshaw, left, Siobhan Fowler, Joe Teakle, Paul Cook, Summer Vlahov, Pauline Gibb and Josephine Wayling.

"But ultimately it's the tale of loss of innocence, when the injustices of an adult world come crashing into childhood. The children follow the case closely and find much to admire in their father but are very disappointed in the attitude of the town."

The main challenge, according to Jane, is portraying the issues in the story. "The language is so wrong to us today but we want to stay true to the period," she said.

"From a technical point-of-view, we have a large cast to fit onto a small crowded stage. And there are many little challenges with set-building and conveying the period with authenticity."

To Kill A Mockingbird, Stirling Theatre, Atticus Finch, Harper Lee, play, performing arts, stage, acting, Scout, Jem
To Kill A Mockingbird director Jane Sherwood, right, with cast members Nicolas Kadmos, Kundai Gotore and Justin Markham.


Involved with the Perth theatre scene since 2005, Jane was a founding member of Phoenix Theatre and has been involved with the Old Mill, Stirling, Black Swan, Rag and Bone, Kwinana and Harbour Theatres, A lad in sane productions, ARENAarts and Fringe World. She has won numerous accolades at the annual Finley Awards, Dramafest, South West Drama Festival and Hills Festival of Theatre including best director and best production.

In 2018, Sherwood took a break from theatre to work on films but made a return in 2019, acting in Lady Willpower, and appearing in Kate's Story for Life on Hold Productions. Last year, she performed in The Actress and directed the award-winning Love Letters, also playing Mavis in the upcoming series Slippery Business.

To Kill A Mockingbird, Stirling Theatre, Atticus Finch, Harper Lee, play, performing arts, stage, acting, Scout, Jem
Mrs Dubose (Pauline Gibb, left) gives Jem (Sean Smith) and Scout (Jennifer Eright) a piece of her mind in To Kill A Mockingbird.

"I felt the time was right to tell the To Kill a Mockingbird story again," Jane said. "Unfortunately, there are still many parallels to issues in today's society. The play is based closely on the book – playwright Christopher Sergel even met with author Harper Lee to discuss the adaptation.

"I don't think there will be any big surprises because there's no point trying to put a twist on something people know so well. But I am looking for truth in performance and hope the audience connect to all the characters they see before them, rather than imagining what they have seen before."

To Kill A Mockingbird, Stirling Theatre, Atticus Finch, Harper Lee, play, performing arts, stage, acting, Scout, Jem
To Kill A Mockingbird features Josephine Wayling, left, as Maudie, Kundai Gotore as Tom and Justin Markham as Atticus Finch.


Justin Markham plays Atticus Finch. "He's an iconic and fantastic character; a man of real integrity. Atticus is a man doing his best to raise his children after the loss of their mother and doing his duty by defending a black man when many town-folk do not approve.

"Being a man of integrity, Atticus will do his utmost for the defendant. He has a lot on his plate when we meet him during this period of his life but he is a man of conviction, stoic and reliable."

To Kill A Mockingbird, Stirling Theatre, Atticus Finch, Harper Lee, play, performing arts, stage, acting, Scout, Jem
Atticus Finch (Justin Markham, bottom right) with children Dill (Luke Williams, top), Scout (Jennifer Wright) and Jem (Sean Smith).


The main challenge, according to Justin, is doing the character and story justice, along with his fellow cast members. "Atticus is a large character with a lot of lines, which is exciting and daunting," he said.

"The story and characters are well-known, much admired and the story has a lot of relevance for today, despite the prejudices we observe in the play. We have moved on in some ways – and, in others, we still need to."

To Kill A Mockingbird, Stirling Theatre, Atticus Finch, Harper Lee, play, performing arts, stage, acting, Scout, Jem
A courtroom scene in To Kill A Mockingbird with Julie Holmshaw, left, Paul Cook, Summer Vlahov, Kundai Gotore, Josephine Wayling, Joe Teakle, Justin Markham, Ellie Cutbush and Tim Riessen.


First performing with ARENAarts in Little Women, Justin has also appeared in Fleeced! at Melville Theatre and two short films. "Theatre is a wonderful experience, with the pressures and the rewards being quite immediate," he said.

"This is my third production and each part has become bigger for me each time. To Kill A Mockingbird is quite the pinnacle in my opinion."

To Kill A Mockingbird plays at 8pm May 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15 with 2pm matinees May 2 and 9. Tickets are $22, $20 concession – book at www.trybooking.com/BNULQ. Stirling Theatre is on Morris Place, Innaloo.

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Why? To Kill A Mockingbird is a classic – it’s one of the most respected and acclaimed books of the 20th century and this is a wonderful chance to see it brought to life on stage.
When: 8pm May 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14 and 15 with 2pm matinees May 2 and 9
Where: Stirling Theatre, Morris Place, Innaloo
Cost: $22, $20 concession
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