Writer: John Steinbeck
Director: Roxana Silbert
Reviewer: Rebecca Cohen
One of the most iconic pieces of American literature, Of Mice and Men, has been brought to the stage in a gripping and powerful production by an incredibly united cast and crew.
The Touring Consortium Theatre Company presents A Birmingham Repertory Theatre production of John Steinbeck’s novella – which tells the story of protagonists George Milton and Lennie Small on their search for new job opportunities in the height of the Great Depression.
Directed by Roxana Silbert, the production brings Steinbeck’s book to life beautifully, interjecting stylised set changes, music, and moments of humour among extremely faithful pieces of storytelling. William Rodell and Kristian Phillips, as George and Lennie, are a simply glorious partnership – their friendship on the boards just as captivating as it is on the pages. Their characters are polar opposite – George being the outspoken one, Lennie the gentle giant – yet they are both reaching out for the same American Dream, in a world full of racial segregation and loneliness.
The other members of the cast, too, work together to put on a slick and polished performance – with stand-out moments coming from Ben Stott as the formidable Curley, Jonah Russell as the loveable Slim, and Dudley Sutton as Candy – not forgetting, of course, Guinness the Dog.
A special mention must also go to Saoirse-Monica Jackson, whose debut to professional theatre as Curley’s Wife is truly captivating. The scene between her and Phillips, moments before her character’s death, is one of the overall highlights of the whole show – the pair playing with stage levels and bouncing off each other’s dialogue flawlessly.
Liz Ascroft’s simplistic set has been designed to perfection, allowing performers to make the most of the stage and travel from scene to scene with ease. It works particularly well in the compact surroundings of The Grand Theatre, in Blackpool, and when combined with dramatic, yet realistic, storytelling it makes for an extremely intimate and personal piece of the theatre. Because of the very nature of the performance, however, sound levels at times could be upped, especially in the opening moments of the show.
Whether you or a die-hard Steinback fan or are new to his writing, this is ultimately a production full of heart, which leaves the audience speechless until the very end. A must-read for those who have not yet experienced this novella, and a must-see for anybody that enjoys polished and profound theatre.
Runs until 26 March 2016 | Image: Contributed