There is something about the classic coming-of-age story, the bildungsroman, that we just cannot get enough of. Whether it's Charlotte Bronte's brooding Jane Eyre, CS Lewis's magical tales of Narnia, or Suzanne Collins' modern dystopian answer to the genre with The Hunger Games trilogy, the concept is something we can all relate to on one level or another. Whatever age, wherever we live, whatever class we're born into - we can all remember a moment, series of events or time in our lives when childhood seemed to slip from our grip and the murky, less black-and-white (excuse the pun...) adulthood showed itself.
For a friend of mine, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is her absolute favourite example and I can completely see why. For those who don't know, the novel is a touching, loosely biographical tale that follows Scout and her brother Jem as a series of events unfold in their hometown in Alabama during the Great Depression. A young black man is accused of raping a young white woman and their father is the defence lawyer and Scout is suddenly thrown into the town's bitter brawl.
It has since won the Pulitzer Prize and been added to the curriculum in schools all over the world but what do you do when you want to adapt a book that well-read, that well-loved?
The answer, for me, was at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre this summer and luckily for anyone who missed it - it's going on tour!
Sat in the audience wrapped up in my blanket and hoodie on the sunny but chilly September Sunday evening with my hot chocolate, I won't lie that I was a bit taken aback when a middle-aged woman in a mac and scarf stood up on her chair in the row in front and started speaking to the audience in a distinctly Northern accent, not Deep South America by any stretch.
'Oh god,' I whispered, 'they're going to try and mix it up and set the story in a council estate in Manchester aren't they?' Luckily, I spoke too soon. A few minutes in and the stage comes alive with children and trees and invisible picket fences, the village all cleverly brought to life with some simple props, a few pieces of chalk and a man floating in and out of scenes strumming an atmospheric soundtrack by Phil King (which, I might add, I bought on CD and is now playing in my car - recommended).
The cast is brilliant, the staging spectacular, and all in all it was the perfect way to spend a late summer evening. My snooty anxiety that 'you can't successfully adapt a truly good book' was put to shame and instead, I've gone away and curled myself up with the novel itself. Success story (pun intended this time) I think you'll agree, and all tied up very nicely with an on-site barbecue dinner and subsequent hot chocolate.