There are various events which take place throughout the year but the big production in 2017/8 was the school play, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’:
To Kill a Mockingbird Report
To Kill a Mockingbird, a gripping drama about racial tensions set in 1930s Alabama, could have seemed a strange choice for the first
ever school production from a new, Northern Irish Grammar school in 2018, but believe me – it was not.
This play was an absolute triumph.
The core value at the heart of the new Coleraine Grammar School is respect, and this timeless tale of equality and empathy is the perfect narrative for
the school to showcase their ethos and a wide array of young talent.
A massive amount of credit for this must go to the school’s new Curriculum Leader for Drama, Miss L Stewart, who can count her directorial debut as a stunning
success. Weeks and months of planning and rehearsals have paid off and equal praise must also go to the play’s producer, Miss L Magee, who helped manage
and oversee every detail and drew on a pool of experienced staff, ably assisted by dedicated and creative teams of pupils, that assisted with sound,
props, prompting, costumes, make-up and of course set design. The set perfectly encapsulated the tired old town of Depression-era Maycomb, with its
trees, picket fences and the eerie Radley place that intrigues the children so much.
Nevertheless, at the very heart of this story, and this school production, is the awe-inspiring brilliance of many wonderful young actors. Special mention
must go to the trio of talent that drive the story from the opening scene until the curtain closes: Helen Reid as Jean-Louise Finch, the story’s retrospective
narrator – Helen’s spellbinding eloquence, faultless southern accent and measured pace drew the entire audience deep into the heart of Alabama; Ellie
Mullan as Scout Finch, the young Jean Louise – Ellie was also mesmeric, flawlessly portraying that perfect blend of innocence and precocious determination
needed for the role; and then there was Ryan Lodge as Atticus, the patriarch and soul of the story – Ryan was amazing. He seamlessly encapsulated that
mix of patient father, caring neighbour and firebrand lawyer with a skill and grace that belied his years.
These three provided a firm basis for an equally impressive ensemble of other young actors to shine. In Act One we met Jem Finch, perfectly performed by
Luke Noel, and the irrepressible Dill, charmingly and humorously portrayed by Keira McILveen. We also watched Molly Millar’s self-assured turn as the
indomitable Cal, Natasha Marshall’s graceful depiction of Miss Maudie, and Isabel McFerran entertained everyone in her scene-stealing role as the scathing
Miss Dubose. In the midst of all of these, Diana Matthewson, with wicked fan skills, sassed-up the stage in style as neighbourhood scold, Miss Stephanie.
As the story took a darker turn into Act Two, with the court case, we got another range of strong performances. Rebecca Connor kept all in order with her
measured tone as Judge Taylor, Calum Beggs perfectly represented the sneering lawyer Mr. Gilmer, and Jonathan Green was assured and affable throughout
in his impressive turn as the sheriff of the county, Heck Tate. In the midst of all this is the metaphorical mockingbird of the story’s title – Tom
Robinson. He was depicted with great conviction and pathos by Adam Morrow. Counterpoint to Tom, is of course the repulsive Bob Ewell, and Adam Brownlee
effortlessly reflected his sneaky, snarling character. In the midst of all of these great performances, one that stood out was Megan McMullan’s turn
as Mayella Ewell. This role is very complex, to pitch the right balance in portraying a character who is the villain and yet also a victim is hard,
but Megan was marvellous.
Credit must also go to all of those other young talents who lit up the stage that night: Andrew Irwin’s hard-working Mr Cunningham; Sophie Haworth’s respectful
Rev Sykes; Callum Edgar’s despondent Nathan Radley; Laura McConnell’s distraught Helen Robinson; Jessica Edgar’s assured Court Clerk; Robert Douglas’s
mean and moody Mob Man; and Connor Mullan’s reclusive Boo, which is such a crucial role, and although he was only briefly on stage he managed to convey
that sense of vulnerability with great skill.
Everyone involved with this production should take great pride in a tremendous achievement. The last stage production I watched of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’
was a big-budget, professional performance in Dublin, in 2015, and it was very good … but this was better.
Mr A Pepin