To Kill a Mockingbird

Civic Theatre, cnr of Queen Street & Wellesley Street West, Auckland

08/05/2016 - 22/05/2016

Production Details


Auckland Theatre Company (ATC) will present the stage version of Harper Lee’s world-renowned tale of racial tension and childhood To Kill a Mockingbird from 6-22 May at Auckland’s Civic Theatre. The courtroom classic stars Simon Prast in the legendary and coveted role of Atticus Finch. 

When a black man is falsely accused of raping a white woman, a small town in America’s Deep South is set alight by the pitiless flames of racial prejudice. Local lawyer Atticus Finch seeks the truth in a lone struggle for justice that inspires his children, Scout and Jem, and pricks the conscience of a community steeped in hatred and hypocrisy. 

The Pulitzer-prize winning novel is a staple in classrooms around the world because of its inspiring and elegantly written lessons about justice, equality and civic duty. Published in the year JFK went to the White House, it caught the mood of the Civil Rights Movement and sold tens of millions of copies worldwide.

The fiercely private yet globally admired author, Harper Lee, whose own childhood was the inspiration for the book, passed away in February this year at the age of 89.

Christopher Sergel’s stage adaption is equally as thought-provoking; the courtroom setting of the Tom Robinson trial adding urgency and theatricality to the famous story. Sergel penned over a dozen plays, the most well-known of which were his adaptations, including Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. Like Lee, Sergel was a perfectionist. He spent twenty years adapting the novel and continued to revise the play after it was published.

ATC Artistic Director Colin McColl brings a huge wealth of experience directing modern American classics to the Mockingbird season. Some examples include August: Osage County, The Crucible, Other Desert Cities and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Leading a cast of New Zealand theatre greats, Prast (Rupert, The Good Soul of Szechuan, Anne Boleyn) will play the small-town lawyer, widower and arguably one of literature’s most iconic fathers. New Zealand film and theatre legend Ian Mune brings over 40 years’ experience in NZ theatre to the role of Judge Cunningham. Kevin Keys (Once on Chunuk Bair, Nothing Trivial, The Almighty Johnsons) will play Heck Tate, and a rotating cast of nine talented children plucked from ATC’s newly created ‘academy’ for young actors will share the roles of Scout, Jem and Dill.

Unflinching and unforgettable, To Kill a Mockingbird is a soaring and searing tribute to human dignity and the enduring power of the right words, at the right time, to change hearts and minds for good.

Auckland’s most majestic theatre, The Civic, will provide a superb backdrop for ATC’s season of the world’s favourite courtroom drama.

For more information or to order a copy of Auckland Theatre Company’s 2016 season brochure, please visit

To Kill a Mockingbird
Venue: Civic Theatre
Dates: 6 – 22 May 
Tickets: or (09) 309 0390

Atticus: Simon Prast
Judge/Cunningham: Ian Mune
Heck Tate: Kevin Keys
Rev Sykes: Fasitua Amosa
Calpurnia: Goretti Chadwick
Tom Robinson: James Maeva
Bob Ewell: Chris Stewart
Scout: Scarlett Featherstone, Billie McKessar, Miro McColl
Jem: Milligan Hudson, Louis Sinclair, Liam Farrell
Charles Baker Harris (Dill): Nicholas Stuart, Flynn Steward, Shay MacLeod 

Set Designer: Andrew Foster
Costume Designer: Nic Smillie
Lighting Designer: Bryan Caldwell
Sound Designer: John Gibson 

Theatre ,


Review by Nikau Hindin and Raihania Tipoki 11th May 2016

Auckland Theatre Company’s production of playwright Christopher Sergel’s adaptation of To Kill a Mocking Bird brings to life Harper Lee’s ageless classic, capturing the essence of early 20th century America and drawing attention to a part of its history many would much rather forget.

Thick, stormy clouds loom behind Andrew Foster’s set of floating wooden beams. Autumn leaves are scattered and a lonely swing sways to the murmurs of the expecting audience. Not an easy task for director Colin McColl to revisit such a well-known story but as the houselights fade, the entire cast emerges, top lit, faces darkened and the audience’s hum fades. As one, they approach us in a kind of standing salute– setting a serious tone for the injustices that are about to be witnessed.

McColl’s direction shines through in moments like these, where bodies on stage ominously multiply to draw attention to the mass ‘blind spots’ of small town racist America.

A brave and isolated Scout – played by Billie McKessar* – opens the dialogue. With a thick Alabama accent she defends herself against the faceless voices of her community, sneering at her. She is told her father is a “nigger lover” and instantly the audience is thrust under the weight of these prejudiced attitudes.  

We observe events through the young and true eyes of a Scout. Barely leaving the stage in the first act, she finds ways to comment on and interject into matters – we were about to say matters well above her understanding, however it seems her simple perspectives make more sense than the ignorant hatred of her town. 

McKessar embodies Scout in the way she delivers her lines with such unquestionable sincerity and assurance. Scout’s relationship with her father Atticus Finch, played by Simon Prast, is heartwarming to watch and is a credit to Prast’s outstanding performance of the principled and gracious Finch. 

Special mention must be given to Ian Mune who adds humor where it is not expected and addresses the audience (rather sternly) to act as jury and return after intermission if we dare.

Scott Wills is hideously believable as alcoholic abusive father to Myella Ewell, played well by Holly Hudson. James Maeva, as Tom Robinson, wrongly accused of rape, stands out during the court interview which has us edgy and holding on for every drop of truth.

The costumes, designed by Nic Smillie, are beautifully tailored to each character, capturing their essence from the soft sensible yellow of Finch’s linen suit to Mr Gilmer’s unreasonable double breasted, gold buttoned jacket and Scout’s boyish denim overalls.  

The sweet interplay of Bryan Caldwell’s lighting design, Foster’s set and John Gibson’s sound transports you back in time and you become part of the story. The pre-recorded music enhances the atmosphere when needed, from the upbeat banjos to the unnerving plucking of Jess Hindin’s violin.

Even though we know the outcome of the story, we are on the edge of our seats holding our breath as the verdict thunders through us and subsequent events unravel.

An emotion-stirring performance by a talented cast raises the Civic Theatre’s star-studded roof as they receive a well-deserved ovation from an elated audience. This wonderful re-examination of Harper Lee’s classic is well worth seeing, whether you are familiar with To Kill a Mocking Bird or a curious newcomer, you will not be disappointed. It embodies an important reminder to learn to stand in someone else’s shoes: a message that is still relevant today in Aotearoa.  
 – – – – – – – – – –
*Alternating with Scarlett Featherstone and Miro McColl


Make a comment

Just portrayal of fight against hate

Review by Paul Simei-Barton 11th May 2016

Tale of innocence v ingrained bigotry in rural America brought vividly to life by talented cast. 

Courtroom drama has a peculiar capacity to grip an audience – whether it’s live feeds from the O. J. Simpson/Oscar Pistorius sagas or the trial scenes from The Merchant of Venice.  

Even when the outcome is known, we are swept up by the thrill of “battle” in which lofty ethical imperatives collide with the messy circumstances of particular individuals. In Harper Lee’s much-loved novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the innocence of childhood illuminates the moral choices confronting simple folk who have become accustomed to the ingrained bigotry of a depression-era Alabama. [More


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council