Steinbeck’s novella, which is so, essentially, American has been a school curriculum favourite in the study of English Literature for many years; this famous tale is wonderfully articulated in this stage play.
The heavy-handed Lennie is a big guy, and his companion and protector, George, is always, defensively, describing him as being ’not bright, but a hell of a good worker and a nice fella’, to any potential bosses and other ranch hands they meet, in his desperate effort to secure them both some short term work and short term shelter. The meek and mindless, Lennie, and the stolid and staunch-like, George are sublimely characterised by actors, Benjamin Dilloway and Michael Legge.
You get a real feel of the remoteness of a farming community and the hard times Steinbeck’s characters are experiencing. It is obvious, because of the way they are living, that there is little reward for the sacrifices they are making and for their hard work. The music, played by members of the cast, adds to that southern American feel and there is no dodgy dialect that is detectable. One of the many poignant scenes is when Lennie, on his way to pet the newly born puppies, falls upon stable buck, Crooks (Dave Fishley) who is lying in desperate agony on top of his bunk because of his ‘busted back’. Of Mice and Men is all about the human condition, but the conversation in this short piece of dialogue between these two characters is particularly insightful.
The fiction book is not much more than hundred pages, but Steinbeck managed to write a Two Act stage version. Act II is short however. Review night started at 7 and the night was over by 9.15 pm which included an interval break.
We know the writing has it all, but the cast and the creative team are gunning ahead to deliver what I regard to be the best theatrical production I have seen this year.
Directors, Roxana Silbert and Nicholas Pitt, and the Players, of course, render the complexity of each character well and the expert stage direction just draws you in. There appears to be no limit that designer Liz Ascroft sets for herself, her set design is once again, breathtaking. The stage floor is planked, and incorporates reed beds and a rivulet. The scene changes are lengthy, but each one interweaves with the storyline. The stage light is extremely atmospheric; quite beautiful.
Of Mice and Men is showing in THE HOUSE at Birmingham Repertory Theatre until 01 November.
Reviewer, Debra Hall attended the press night showing of Of Mice and Men at Birmingham Repertory Theatre on Tuesday 14 October. This review also appears on the events website Remotegoat
All photos copyright credit: ©ELLIE KURTTZ
Featured Illustration copyright credit ©DEBRA HALL
Lennie – Benjamin Dilloway – Credits include: National Theatre, Film, and TV
George – Michael Legge – Credits include: Theatre, Angela’s Ashes (Universal), BBC Radio 4, and TV
James Hayes – Candy – Credits include: TV, Film, BBC Radio 4 and Theatre (Shakespeare’s Globe, Birmingham Repertory Theatre/tour)
Jan Knightley – Carlson/The Boss/Musician – Credits include: Theatre, TV (New Tricks), Film, BBC Radio 4 (The Archers)
Lorna Nickson-Brown – Curley’s Wife – Credits include: Theatre (Birmingham Repertory Theatre) TV (BBC), Film,
Claran O’Brien – Curley – Credits include Theatre (Sheffield Crucible), TV (Ripper Street) and Film
Nicholas Goode – Whit/Musician – Credits include Theatre (Nottingham Playhouse, Birmingham Repertory Theatre)
Dave Fishley – Crooks/Musician – Credits include Theatre (Royal Shakespeare Company) TV (Macbeth BBC Schools) Film (Bridget Jones’s Diary)
Norman Bowman – Slim – Credits include Theatre (West End) TV (BBC) and Film