Courtroom battle continues over To Kill a Mockingbird

The West End’s new production of To Kill A Mockingbird is in a legal battle in the US over the rights to the play.

Currently starring Matthew Modine as Atticus Finch at the Gielgud Theatre in London directed by Bartlett Sher, the new adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic novel is by West Wing writer Aaron Sorkin.

In 2019, the Broadway producers of this new version caused outrage after trying to prevent small theatres in the US staging a previous adaptation of the book by Christopher Sergel.

A major UK casualty was a new production using Sergel’s adaptation by Jonathan Church Productions, Curve and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, which was pulled in January 2019 a few weeks before it was due to start.

Now fortunes have reversed, and legal representatives for the rights holders of Sergel’s version are blocking Sorkin’s version being staged outside of the West End, Broadway and a current national US tour.

The real-life courtroom battle not only concerns who will profit from future performances of the stage adaptation, but also politics: the current Sorkin version in London is more contemporary, boosts the roles for black characters and adds new complexity to the main character of Atticus Finch.

According to the New York Times, the producers of the Sorkin script – including Broadway and Hollywood mogul Scott Rudin – have now filed a lawsuit, on Wednesday 7 December 2022, against the Sergel script’s rightsholders, to overturn a previous ruling that prevented them from staging further productions.

Modine, who is famous for his film roles including Alan Parker’s Birdy and Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, joined the London cast on 21 November 2022. Previous actors in the role include Rafe Spall and Richard Coyle.

The London production continues at the Gielgud Theatre, and is currently booking to 1 April 2023.

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📷 Main photo: Matthew Modine in To Kill a Mockingbird. Photo by Marc Brenner

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