Of Mice and Men at Birmingham Rep - Review

Of Mice and Men at Birmingham Rep - Review

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Posted 2023-03-24 by dpmfollow

Sat 18 Mar 2023 - Sat 08 Apr 2023

John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men feels intensely relevant for modern times. It is set in a Depression-crushed America where people are largely focused on simply struggling to survive. And we also see the effects of that battle on the fractured nature of human relationships. People’s lives bump into each other but rarely really connect, as each carve out their own existences.

This is the world into which farm hands George and Lennie appear, firstly as two men travelling for work and gradually as two people whose lives are so closely intertwined they have become dependent on each other’s friendship.



In this new production at Birmingham Rep directed by Iqbal Khan, that relationship is clearly set against the harshness of their circumstances, made all the more stark by the fact they are hiding their history from those around them. George and Lennie have their secrets - Lennie, who is a giant of a man with the mental development of a child, has a habit of causing ‘bad things’ to happen because he doesn’t know his own strength. Now they are hoping to put the past behind them and plan for a brighter future.

ThisOf Mice and Men, produced by The Rep, Leeds Playhouse and Fiery Angel, goes beneath the surface of the relationships between these two men and the other characters. It is aided by the fact the cast is inclusive with some of the actors bringing lived experience of disability to their roles revealing a vulnerability not always seen in the drama.

Of Mice and Men can stand or fall on the strength of the relationship between its two main characters and Tom McCall as George and Wiliam Young as Lennie have that friendship firmly grounded both emotionally and physically. There’s a real connection between the two which makes the unfolding of the story all the more painful.

Tom’s George is constantly urging Lennie not to cause trouble but he’s also constantly watching Lennie’s back, protecting him as much as nagging him. Wiliam brings his own experience of complex learning difficulties to the role of Lennie and his awkwardness with other people only serves to underline the closeness of his relationship with George.

At the farm, they meet an array of characters from the sympathetic Slim, played with sensitivity by Simon Darwen, to the hated Curley, portrayed with lashings of nastiness by Riad Richie.

Into this maelstrom is thrown Curley’s Wife, a woman who has discovered a hasty marriage is to be repented at leisure when she finds herself isolated, lonely and with a man she doesn’t even like. Maddy Hill’s Wife wanders the farm trying to fill time and find friendship but instead, she meets only with suspicion and trouble.



Khan brings out the fragile nature of all of these relationships in this production, stressing the divisions rather than the cohesion of the group at the farm. These are people thrown together by circumstance but that doesn’t mean they share more than a bunkhouse or a workplace.

The sets, costumes and music help to set the show firmly in its timeframe in 1930s America. The bunkhouses are minimal, the costumes are practical and the lighting is harsh, this is no easy existence for any of the characters. Elizabeth Purnell’s music features songs which also underline the harsh reality of life for the farmhands who hanker after better times.

There is a real humanity to this production in which we see that even in the toughest of circumstances, some people can stand together and support each other. It’s a timely lesson for our own current economic crisis.

Of Mice and Men plays Birmingham Rep until 8 April and then tours. See here for details.

#drama
#theatre
#plays
#literature

%wnbirmingham
!date 18/3/2023 -- 8/4/2023
76370 - 2023-03-24 10:46:58

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