UK tour of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' cancelled after US legal threat

UK tour of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' cancelled after US legal threat

A touring production of "To Kill a Mockingbird", set to open in February and tour the UK and Ireland, has been cancelled mid-rehearsals after the threat of legal action from Scott Rudin's company Atticus, which stages the current Broadway hit.

Jonathan Church Productions in the UK had been due to stage the production, based on Christopher Sergel's adaptation of the iconic Harper Lee novel, in venues including Regent's Park Theatre and the Curve Theatre in Leicester. However the company has said they were forced to cancel the tour after lawyers for Atticus contacted them claiming worldwide exclusivity in professional stage rights to To Kill a Mockingbird. 

That claim conflicts with the licence issued by Dramatic Publishing Company for the UK production, a statement from Jonathan Church Productions, Curve and Regent's Park Theatre said. "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," the statement noted. "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."

Despite Jonathan Church Productions having "acted in good faith at all times", Atticus was "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," the statement added.

Scott Rudin told the New York Times: "I wish we'd been able to accommodate their tour, but we are going to do the show in the West End and then tour it in the UK. We own and control those rights, so there was of course no choice but to enforce the agreement we have with the estate of Harper Lee." No date for a London transfer of the Broadway show has yet been unveiled.

The Broadway production of "Mockingbird" went through its own legal travails ahead of launch, when the Harper Lee estate sued over differences between Aaron Sorkin's script and the original novel.  The lawsuit was settled in May of last year.