Of Mice and Men | Review
John Steinbeck’s novella ‘Of Mice and Men’ is studied by students as a set text for good reason. It deals with such themes as loneliness, prejudice, violence and discrimination which are as much a part of today as they were in the Great Depression which is when the novel was set.
Steinbeck’s literary classic was adapted by George S Kaufman for Broadway in 1937 and it was first performed in the West End two years later. The Touring Consortium and The Birmingham Repertory Theatre are currently touring with a new production directed by Roxana Silbert and this week is it playing at The Theatre Royal in Brighton to packed houses of eager students waiting to see characters they have only read about brought to life.
The story is set in bleak California in the 1930s, it centres around the friendship between two migrant farm workers George Milton and Lennie Small. They have big dreams, they want to find a steady job to earn enough money to put a stake on a piece of land and settle down. It is not easy, work is hard to come by and although Lennie is big and very strong he is not bright and has what in today’s society we recognise as learning difficulties. George takes care of Lennie even though his childish ways and brute strength often gets them into trouble.
Kristian Phillips takes on the difficult role of the innocent and faithful Lennie, he lumbers around the stage smiling and laughing, unaware of the trouble he causes while William Rodell playing George takes care of him, keeping him out of trouble and cultivating the dream of their own land with plenty of rabbits for Lennie to tend.
As we get to know the other characters on the ranch, we understand that they are all loosely bound together by the isolation in which they find themselves. The ensemble are strong and the characters well portrayed.
Saoirse-Monica Jackson is the only female in the cast playing the nameless ‘Curley’s Wife’ who is married to the owner’s jealous and quick tempered son (played by Ben Stott). With Steinbeck’s blessing, Kaufman’s developed the character of Curley’s Wife, in the adaptation of the play she is given her own backstory and her own unrealised dreams.
The rustic set designed by Liz Ashcroft is simple and sparse depicting the desolate Californian landscape, the cast are involved with scene changes which enhances the feeling that everyone has to pitch in and work together.
The entire production is well conceived and executed. It was lovely to see the Theatre Royal Brighton full of students and their families completely in awe of the production and hopefully this faithful version of ‘Of Mice and Men’ will go some way to ensure they get the grades they need.
Reviewer : Sammi O’Neill
☆☆☆ | Recommended
Of Mice and Men is produced by The Touring Consortium together with The Birmingham Repertory Theatre and is playing at the Theatre Royal Brighton until Saturday 23rd April. It then continues with it’s tour throughout Spring 2016.