‘Premise and Performance …’

07/07/2022 // by Jan Moran Neil

Premise and Performance by Ms Paige Turner
Mister Justin Case and I are on a post pandemic Theatre Gorge. We’ve just been to see ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ at the Gielgud Theatre with Rafe Spall giving a warm and beautiful performance as Atticus Finch, the defence lawyer who takes on Tom Robinson’s case of accused rape. Tom is ‘of colour’ and in a 30s’ Southern American small town, he is as good as guilty and dead.
Harper Lee’s novel won the Pulitzer prize and we then watched the 1962 film in which Gregory Peck gave an equally warm and beautiful performance as the defending lawyer. It’s not my place to re-tell plot here, go and see the play if you can – but the ‘premise’ between book and current staging is different. I read the book twice more than twenty years ago but it seems to me the ‘premise’ of the novel is the learning of when to speak out and when to stay silent. (Ha! The ‘premise’ of my novel ‘Shakespeare’s Clock’!) For Atticus speaks out in defending the guiltless Tom, but learns, by a later experience that to remain silent is the wiser and better path.
Aaron Sorkin’s play focuses on Atticus’s belief that all men are good and worthy of respect even if they do not feel that black lives matter, which deviates from Lee’s novel. Sorkin also gives Calpurnia – Atticus’s maid ‘of colour’ – fresh lines to say to her ‘master’. ‘When you respect all men whatever their values, think of who you are disrespecting.’ The fact that no Calpurnia would have said these words to her ‘master’ in a 30s’ Southern American state is not, I am sure, the writer’s point. It’s something called dramatic licence. And Sorkin, the writer has used Calpurnia to make a point; to change the ‘premise’ of the work which Lee, the original author had created.
Last month we went to see Jodie Cromer, as a defence lawyer, in ‘Prima Facie’ – a one-woman show which is transferring to Broadway. I won’t go into that premise. See the play if you can. Next month is Tennessee Williams’ ‘The Glass Menagerie’. One of my old favourites – departing from the law but an examination of the notion of memory – for all those out there writing their memoirs!
You can purchase my novel ‘Shakespeare’s Clock’ here …




I am also available for readings from the novel if you wish to book me in person or virtually!

One thought on “‘Premise and Performance …’

  1. john moore says:

    Is it all dramatic licence?

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