dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Steinbeck classic brought to the stage
American novelist John Steinbeck takes us into the lives of itinerant farm workers in his classic Of Mice And Men.
Focussing on two workers, Lennie and George, we meet them as they arrive on the outskirts of the farm where they are next to work.
As they discuss their reasons for the new job it quickly becomes clear the two men are running away from 'something bad' which happened at their last workplace.
What is less clear is the relationship between these two men. George, played by Michael Legge, is the planner of the two. It is he who decides they need a hiding place should 'something bad' happen again.
Lennie, played by Benjamin Dilloway, is the dependent. With the mentality of a child, this gentle giant seems like a harmless simpleton. But as the story unfolds we realise that when Lennie unleashes his 'bad' side it is very bad indeed.
Michael Legge as George and Benjamin Dilloway as Lennie in Of Mice And Men
As the two men begin their new life they are asked again and again why they travel together. George offers different reasons to different people – they grew up together, they have known each other a long time, they are even cousins.
While the origins of their friendship remain unexplained, what comes through is their special bond.
Directed by Roxana Silbert this production at Birmingham Repertory Theatre keeps that friendship to the forefront. As the ground beneath them shifts and starts to slide away, George is desperate to do whatever it takes to save Lennie.
Michael Legge's George is loyal and caring while Benjamin Dilloway grasps the conflict of gentleness and violence in Lennie.
The two are challenged by the one female character in the story – the wife of their boss's son Curly. Bored and petulant, Curly's wife, played by Lorna Nickson-Brown, is eager for attention and it is her desire for response which sets the train of tragedy in place.
Benjamin Dilloway as Lennie and Lorna Nickson-Brown as Curley's Wife in Of Mice And Men
Curly, played by Ciaran O'Brien is thoroughly unlikeable – it is little surprise his wife is looking for attention elsewhere.
Designed by Liz Ascroft, the staging reminds us of the great expanse of American farmland with clouds off in the distance.
The sets switch from outside to inside with reasonable ease while cast members who are not on stage are visible in the wings, where they take the role of bystanders watching the tragedy unfold.
There is plenty of punch in this production which hurtles towards its painful conclusion and its stark ending is shocking because it seems so sudden and unexpected. Those who know the story may have seen it coming but many others clearly hadn't, judging from their response.