Special performance of To Kill A Mockingbird to school pupils for Black History Month
A performance of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ at the Gielgud Theatre was opened to over 600 secondary school pupils as part of Black History Month.
The play, based on the classic novel by American author Harper Lee exploring issues of racial injustice, was attended by an audience of secondary school pupils from across 25 London boroughs to engage with the controversial subjects that the production explores.
The performance was organised by producer Sonia Friedman and Sita Mcintosh, who created initiative Inclusive Audiences.
The initiative, which was established this year, focuses on developing and diversifying audiences.
Sita Mcintosh said: “I set up Inclusive Audiences to cultivate and nurture the audiences of tomorrow, particularly amongst those currently under-represented in our theatres including young people, working class people and those from the Global Majority.”
Sita Mcintosh’s initiative staged the special performance for state school students for just £10 a ticket, with many pupils attending live theatre show for the first time.
The timing tied in with UK Black History Month, which runs throughout October.
With the issues of race explored within the play, Sonia Friedman and Sita McIntosh felt that it was the right time.
A Q&A chaired by Brenda Emmanus OBE with the cast of the show was held shortly afterwards, with audience members getting an opportunity to ask more about their roles and production of the show.
Speaking about how the plays race issues relates to modern day, actress Pamela Nomvete who plays Calpurina in the play said: “It is relevant – it is a contemporary story
“This is something that’s happening in America with George Floyd.
“We saw this happen just down the road with Chris Kaba.”
Gwyneth Keyworth who plays Scout in the production, spoke about the playing a young person who struggles to be taken seriously.
She said: “Being younger you can be patronised – and your opinions and voices are not heard.
“Scout has really legitimate and important questions that she’s continuously asking but because she’s viewed as a little girl, they’re not listening they’re not taking her seriously.”
She compared the issues Scout faces as a young person to those facing youth today.
Use of the N word was also a controversial issue in the production, a word none of the cast wanted to say but understood the importance of being left in.
Pamela Nomvete said: “There was a lot of discussion in the rehearsal room about whether to use it and whether it was necessary.”
The word was not used in any rehearsals and is only said in the showing itself.
Pamela continued: “In order to tell this story – yes [its important].
“It’s important that people to hear it and to understand that the nature of the word and the assault it carries.”
Pamela felt that leaving the word out of the show would be ignoring history, and despite the violence associated with the word, it should be acknowledged.
Jude Owusu, who plays Tom Robinson explained the measures the production was taking to look after its actors who could be affected by the words continuous use on the show.
He said: “Safeguarding wise, black members of the cast have weekly therapy sessions every Monday.”
The black members of the cast are able to come together and discuss the wider issues the play showcases.
Harper Lee’s popular novel of racial injustice and childhood innocence has sold more than 45 million copies worldwide.
‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ runs every Monday. to Saturday until February 2023 at the Gielgud Theatre.