OF MICE AND MEN: John Steinbeck.
Theatre Royal: Tkts 0115 989 5555 www.royalcentre-nottingham.co.uk.
Runs: 2h 10m: one interval: till 5th March.
Performance times: 7.30pm, (Matinees 2.00pm Weds and 2.30pm Sat).
Review: Alan Geary: 1st March 2016.
An epic tragedy.
The novella of itinerant farm workers in depression-era California is an American masterpiece. But John Steinbeck had a play in mind when he wrote it, he himself adapting it for the stage.
This production retains all the power and narrative thrust of the book. And all the themes are in place: the loneliness, the yearning for friendship and love, the hopeless dreams, the essential animal-like nature of human-beings.
There’s Candy (Dudley Sutton), utterly friendless once his stinking old dog’s been shot. There’s Crooks (Dave Fishley, especially good in his scene alone with Lennie), who has to bed down in the barn, separate from the other ranch hands because he’s black.
And there’s Curley’s pathetic wife (Saoirse-Monica Jackson), stuck in a useless marriage, who craves someone to talk to. You just know her dreams of making it in Hollywood will come to naught.
It’s clear from the start that Lennie and George, and later on Candy, are never going to own that few acres, with the house, the fat stove, the alfalfa and the rabbits.
The duo are splendidly played by Kristian Phillips and William Rodell. Given their physical contrast there’s more than a suggestion of the Laurel and Hardy about them, minus most – not all – of the comedy. It’s a powerful joint portrayal of tender interdependence between men, the non-erotic sort forged in common adversity. When they drink from the stream they’re like animals; when Lennie meets his end he’s being put to sleep like Candy’s dog – this is of mice and men.
It’s beautifully designed and lit, beginning and ending with a wide-open Californian landscape; in between we get interiors of a bunkhouse and then a barn, complete with a towering piece of farm machinery. Unfussy scene-changing is done by the cast; and in the first instance choreographed to suggest a bustling barn dance.
Original background country/folk music, played live, contributes a lot to atmosphere and mood. So, pointedly, does the voice of Woody Guthrie with This Land is Your Land, in a play about the poor and landless.
You’re left feeling intense pity for Lennie and George, and for all humanity. It’s epic tragedy.
Crooks: Dave Fishley.
Whit: Nicholas Goode.
Carlson/Boss: Neil McKinven.
Curley’s Wife: Saoirse-Monica Jackson.
Lennie: Kristian Phillips.
George: William Rodell.
Slim: Jonah Russell.
Curley: Ben Stott.
Candy: Dudley Sutton.
Ensemble: Graham Elwell, David Tudor, Samantha Hopkins.
Director: Roxana Silbert.
Designer: Liz Ashcroft.
Composer/Sound Designer: Nick Powell.