OF MICE AND MEN: John Steinbeck
Birmingham Rep and The Touring Circuit
Runs: 2h 15m, one interval, to 01 11 14
The production will tour in 2015 – details tbc
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 14 10 14
A tale of bad times, that are still with us.
Roxana Silbert brings a fresh, honest-to-goodness production of this much admired story to the Birmingham Rep and the Touring Circuit. An opening song, simply sung, gives us the context; the opening scene, the duologue between Lennie and George, gives us both the country’s heat and the awful toughness of the lives of itinerant workers.
What we feel so clearly is the dreadful lives of these men, nicely encapsulated in the dream (the American dream) of a bit of land and your own house. For the possessed this is an achievable dream, for the dispossessed, then as now, it is a dream never to be accomplished.
Michael Legge and Benjamin Dilloway (George and Lennie) create a warm and tangible relationship that holds the play together. James Hayes is telling as Candy, and his memory of a brothel he went to long ago – red carpets and red upholstered chairs – is a moving, key moment. That this is a savoured memory tells us much about the men’s lives. Norman Bowman has a warm naturalness which is the basis for a most noticeable Slim.
Perhaps we have become more cynical now, or more knowing, but Lennie’s talk of mice and puppies, try as the company might to fight against it, teeters on the sentimental. Though there is nothing sentimental about the ending, handled as it is, like the rest of the production without fuss – just one more brutal element of living in an unforgiving and brutal society.
Young people, studying the book perhaps at school, give the production a very warm welcome, and that has to be good, doesn’t it.
Norman Bowman: Slim
Benjamin Dilloway: Lennie
Dave Fishley: Crooks / Musician
Nicholas Goode: Whit / Musician
James Hayes: Candy
Jan Knightley: Carlson / The Boss / Musician
Michael Legge: George
Lorna Nickson-Brown: Curley’s Wife
Ciaran O’Brien: Curley
Roxana Silbert: Director
Liz Ascroft: Designer
Simon Bond: Lighting Designer
Nick Powell: Composer and Sound Designer
Aline David: Choreographer and Movement Director
Anne McNulty: Casting Consultant
Terry King: Fight Director
Stephen Kemble: Voice and Dialect Coach