Dubbed an instant classic upon release, To Kill a Mockingbird has established itself as a timeless work of art in the 59 years since the novel’s release in 1960.
Its enduring legacy is due, in part, to the book’s relatable themes, rich use of language and its ability to challenge readers to consider profound questions around race, class and society.
Directing the REP’s stage production of the work is a dream come true for one of Canberra’s performing arts stalwarts, Anne Somes.
Speaking to Canberra Weekly days before its premiere in late March, Somes said preparations had been seamless.
“It’s been very smooth sailing and really quite painless, so I think everybody is extremely happy and completely show ready.”
Somes said her affinity with the work stems from the fact she regards it as a timeless and beautifully told story.
“My particular viewpoint is that the main theme is the loss of innocence. Everything else flows from there, but it’s about how the kids actually grow in to maturity.
Somes said she’s particularly moved by Atticus Finch’s defence of Tom Robinson, and how that affects the children.
“The children’s views are coloured by Maycomb County … the townsfolk there are prejudiced, they’re poor, and there is a lot of racial tension.
“Being black at that particular point of time meant you were at the very bottom of the wrung.
“He defends him from a totally unjust prosecution, knowing that he has no hope of winning, despite Tom’s innocence.
“The children then grow and see how just because something is unjust, doesn’t mean you don’t try and do something about it … They learn that irrespective of all that, there are morals and ethics, and that through their own learning of what’s right and wrong can bring about change,” she said.
Somes said loss of innocence is encapsulated further in the symbolic set.
“With the set design, the tree is representative of life that we all go through and the rope and tyre swing take me back to my childhood and innocence.
“When you were swinging on that tyre, you’d survey the world below and think about how you were going to change things,” she said.
REP’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird sees three local child actors take on major roles: Jade Breen plays Scout, Jamie Boyd plays Jem, and Jake Keen plays Dill.
Breen, 13, told Canberra Weekly that being a part of this show has changed the way she sees the world.
“Scout and her friends live in their own little world, they go off on adventures, they play on the tyre swing, but it’s when they start to get involved in the racism of Maycomb County that they begin to grow and change.
“I wasn’t really aware of things like racism before this; I had an understanding but didn’t understand how present it is in today’s society,” she said.
This production is Somes’ first directorial role with REP. She contributes significantly to Canberra’s cultural fabric through her theatre company, Free-Rain.
Somes is thrilled to work with Canberra REP, with which she has a longstanding connection.
“When I was a kid I went and saw them in the riverside hut back in the fifties. It was my first introduction to theatre. I fell in love then and have been in love with it ever since. That was a catalyst for my passion, right back then at the beginning,” she said.
Canberra REP’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird is being performed at Theatre 3, 3 Repertory Lane, Acton until 13 April; canberrarep.org.au