Of Mice And Men
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Written by John Steinbeck
Directed by Roxanna Silbert
Of Mice and Men played at Birmingham Rep in October 2014, little over a year ago, but in a time when their funding allocation has been cut by 15% you can hardly blame the institution for reviving a production that is bound to bring audience members in droves – and this production is every bit as tender and moving as it was in its previous incarnation.
Liz Ascroft’s set makes the most of the space available to create the feeling of the wide open plains. The backdrop of open sky really helps create the scene, and Simon Bond’s lighting complements this perfectly to create the mood and achieve a greater sense of confinement in the indoor scenes. A live band help to set the atmosphere, though they could have been incorporated into the production more at times rather than being hidden in the background.
Roxanna Silbert gives scenes the space they need, but also ensures that the pace does not drop through detailed direction – although the opening scene does take a little while to get going. A great deal of the blocking is the same as that 2014 production, taking the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, but she allows the individual actors to bring their own life to the story.
Kristian Phillips gives the standout performance of the evening, as the huge and lumbering Lennie. He finds the tenderness and vulnerability and is suitably menacing when provoked and the switch is flipped. William Rodell finds the right balance of frustration and care as George, and his performance in the final scene is truly moving.
Ben Stott is an intense Curley, a with his slight frame he really channels the short man syndrome element to the character. Dudley Sutton is warm and likeable as Candy, despite his accent dropping at times. And Dave Fishley and Jonah Russell give good support as Crooks and Slim respectively.
Saoirse-Monica Jackson is perhaps the only weak link in the cast. She seems flustered, as an actor and not a character, and has a tendency to make rather unnatural gestures and movements with her arms. This is her professional debut, and she will likely settle in herself with more experience under her belt.
A notable mention must be given to Arthur the dog, who is adorable and excellently behaved on-stage.
The novel lives long in the memories of many, and a revisit to Steinbeck’s wonderful story is always welcomed. Birmingham Rep have found a recipe that works, and like any tried and tested recipe have brought it back and whipped it up into a theatrical delight. Good theatre with strong performances from the cast.
Runs until 13th February 2016 at Birmingham Repertory Theatre.