If you say you haven’t heard of John Steinbeck’s most famous work, people give you funny looks, as if you’d just renounced the fact that the Earth is round. Having, like most people, studied the novel as part of my GCSE syllabus, I feel I have an affinity to the tale of friendship, discrimination and the pursuit of the American Dream.
Itinerant farm workers, George and Lennie, are in pursuit of owning some land of their own to start the life of which they have always dreamed. But Lennie’s childish mind and remarkable size often cause trouble for the two, striking again, and ruining the pursuit of their dreams.
Liz Ascroft created an intriguing set of 1930s California, with the colourful horizon projected onto the back wall and the main stage framed by metal girders and open wings, in which director, Roxana Silbert’s, cast would sit and watch the action. This Brechtian aspect was interesting and saw the characters joining with a pair of musicians in creating naturalistic soundscapes for the action.
William Rodell’s George came into his own in the final scene of the play, expressing sincere and heartfelt emotion, whilst his Lennie (Kristian Phillips) was strong throughout in what is a physically and mentally demanding role. Dave Fishley physically embodied the disabled black stable-hand Crooks excellently, whilst Saorise-Monica Jackson showed an abandoned and vulnerable Curley’s Wife which is not portrayed in Steinbeck’s original novel, but seemed very fitting.
Whilst Silbert’s directing seemed overly theatrical at times – some conversations were delivered directly to the audience, rather than to the other participants – this was a really enjoyable version of a classic novel. Combining humour with the heartbreaking conclusion, the Rep’s production of Of Mice and Men has created a superb production depicting the most glorious parts of companionship, and also the most devastating.
- By John Steinbeck
- Director: Roxana Silbert
- Cast includes: William Rodell, Kristian Phillips, Jonah Russell, Saoirse-Moica Jackson
- The Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham
- Until 13th February 2016
- Review by Harry Tennison
- 9 February 2016