Review by: Paul Towers, 23 May 2016
Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
A Birmingham Rep and The Touring Consortium production
Curve 23 – 28 May 2016
“the denouement is as inevitable as it is shocking”
Steinbeck’s novella, based on his own early experiences of being a migratory worker in 1920’s America, is often required reading is secondary schools, hence the large number of school children in the audience tonight. It is also a continuing source of angst amongst liberals for its overt racism and vulgarity.
The title is taken from Robbie Burn’s poem To A Mouse in which the lines “The best laid schemes of mice and men / Often go awry” appear.
The plot concerns the arrival of two migrant workers, intelligent George Milton and his sidekick Lennie Small, a gentle giant of a man with limited mental capabilities. George has a dream, to own a small holding where he and Lennie will be safe and self sufficient. Teaming up with Candy, the injured bumbling old retainer, their goal is within sight but, as usual, Lennie’s social clumsiness brings the house of cards tumbling down and the denouement is as inevitable as it is shocking.
Steinbeck accurately catches the claustrophobia of the smaller than small town mentality in the isolated ranch and the basic dialogue of those isolated from polite society.
The staging is simplistic in its effectiveness with just two sets. The stage opens with a blank wall with a door in it. The two migrants spend their last night beside a river prior to starting work on the ranch. It will also be the place for Lennie to run to should he get into trouble.
With beautifully choreographed precision the scene is changed to the inside of the bunkhouse with the myriad of furniture that requires.
William Rodell as George and Kristian Phillips as Lennie are perfectly cast, while veteran actor Dudley Sutton as Candy, the not-as-simple-as-he-looks amputee, is superb. Inevitably Monty the dog steals every scene he is in!
First published in Western Gazette