Tuesday, 1 March 2016

"Of Mice & Men" by John Steinbeck
Nottingham Theatre Royal

John Steinbeck's classic deep South novella, rather than a novel, which he wrote as a "playable novel" about two men travelling together looking for work.George is clever, the opposite of Lennie who has learning difficulties. They say opposites attract and throughout the play George tells us how much better off he would be if he was travelling alone. The two are loners in their own way and in a way they do need each other, Lennie probably more than George, but you get the feeling that George enjoys having the power and control over his travelling and work partner.

They are travelling to look for work on the farms, but they're also running away from trouble, and given Lennie's past, into inevitable trouble, which they find in their latest workplace. The story has several offshoots with the various workers on the farm and deal with segregation and the image of how women are treated within marriage as well as the image of elders with learning difficulties. All sidelines but all very vital to the story as a whole.

Steinbeck originally planned the book as a children's story, and that is why the book is still on many school's curriculum. It gives many positives as well as highlighting a lot of negative attitudes, many of which still exist in modern society. 

Kristian Phillips is spot on as the mentally challenged , but lovable Lennie. You really do feel sorry for him and the end, because you know what his fate is, really makes you tense up. There are a couple of moments like this in the play with parallels with Candy's old dog, played by Benji, a bit of a local celebrity, and Lennie. Kristian projects the very human side, as well as the lonely side of the character and really stirs the emotional side of you.

George, played by William Rodell, really comes across as the protective one, and he is to a great extent just that, and in the final scenes you can tell he isn't 100% in favour of his actions, but in his eyes, is the kindest action to protect Lennie. Confident role who, again, evokes emotion and reaction from the audience for his character.

One familiar face in the cast is Dudley Sutton , who you may recognise as Tinker from "Lovejoy" among his other TV roles. Candy is a lovely warm character who, like Lennie and George, has his dreams which you just know won't come to fruition. He has hopes and ambition, even at his time of life and his devotion to the dog he had as a pup is admirable, recoiling into a semi foetal position after his final act of "kindness".

The rest of the cast are equally superb. Jonah Russell (Slim), Ben Stott (Curley) as the over protective and suspicious husband, Saoirse-Monica Jackson (Curley's wife) who does a really good job in her professional stage debut, Dave Fishley (Crooks), who has a very convincing emotional scene and speech as he describes what his life as a black man in the deep south is like.

The set is changed by the ensemble, and while the props are simple they create just the right atmosphere and look for the piece, designed by Liz Ascroft. Sensitively yet powerfully directed by Roxana Silbert with an evocative light design by Simon Bond and sound design by Nick Powell.

It is a classic piece of literature and is a powerful and emotive piece of theatre, beautifully acted which still manages to hold an air of tension and menace, and still has that shock element.

"Of Mice And Men" is being performed at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Saturday 5 March 2016.

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