Sign up for our weekly newsletter

To Kill a Mockingbird tour called off over legal action threat

Published: 22 January 2019
Reporter: Steve Orme

The UK and Ireland tour of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird has been cancelled because of an exclusivity claim brought by the producers of the Broadway production.

Jonathan Church Productions, Leicester’s Curve Theatre and Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre were due to open the tour at Curve on Thursday 7 February.

The Christopher Sergel adaptation of the novel was licensed to Jonathan Church Productions by Dramatic Publishing Company. However, on 11 January lawyers acting for Atticus Limited Liability Company—formed by producer Scott Rudin for the current Broadway production of To Kill a Mockingbird—contacted Jonathan Church Productions, Curve, Regent’s Park Theatre and all the tour venues claiming worldwide exclusivity in the professional stage rights to the play.

A spokesman for the theatres said, “this statement conflicts with the licence issued by Dramatic Publishing Company. It also seems to be at odds with the fact that many professional productions of the Sergel adaptation have been staged in the UK previously under what are understood to be similar licences from Dramatic Publishing Company, including those produced by the Touring Consortium Theatre Company in 2011, Royal Exchange, Manchester in 2013, Regent’s Park Theatre in 2013 and Octagon Theatre, Bolton in 2016.

“It appears there may be a difference of opinion as to exactly what rights were originally conferred to Dramatic Publishing Company in 1969 by the Harper Lee estate. Nevertheless, despite those involved in the UK tour having acted in good faith at all times, Atticus Limited Liability Company made it clear that they would commence legal proceedings against the tour’s producer, originating theatre and all venues where it was due to be presented if the tour were not cancelled with immediate effect.

“Atticus Limited Liability Company were unwilling to consider any compromises which were proposed to resolve the situation without lengthy and costly legal action. Jonathan Church Productions, Curve and Regent’s Park Theatre are deeply saddened to have been forced into the position of disappointing audiences across the UK and Ireland.

“We would like to thank all those who have already bought tickets and those currently working to recreate the show which had been in rehearsals until today (21 January).”

The tour was due to visit Milton Keynes Theatre, Birmingham REP, Norwich Theatre Royal, Rose Theatre, Kingston, Newcastle Theatre Royal, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Malvern Theatres, Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, Cambridge Arts Centre, Bord Gais Energy Theatre, Dublin, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, The Lowry, Salford, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness and His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen until Saturday 8 June.