Of Mice and Men Review

Wed 25th May, 2016 @ 11:28am by mattwatts

Of Mice and Men Review

The Birmingham REP’s touring production of Of Mice and Men arrived at Curve Theatre on Monday 23rd May.

The combination of original music and impressive stage design set the scene without being excessive. By the time the iconic characters of George (William Rodell) and Lennie (Kristian Phillips) appeared on stage, the audience were already immersed in the bright sunny days of the Great Depression. The fault line crack that cut across the stage simultaneously brought to mind the cracked ground of arid American desert, and formed the idyllic stream where the play both begins and ends. While not involved in a scene, the performers all sat at the edges of the stage, their isolation and the vast scale implied by the projected backdrop emphasising the theme of loneliness.

Kristian Phillips’s lumbering physicality captured Lennie’s grown-baby personality, and William Rodell managed to balance frustration and compassion to create an elder-brother persona that the audience could easily empathise with. While Phillips’ air of lovable innocence never faltered, even he was upstaged by his canine co-star. Monty the dog, with his distinctive beard and eyebrows, provoked gasps of delight as he padded about the stage. There can’t have been a better dog for the job of foreshadowing the play’s heart-breaking conclusion.

The slightly heightened performances of Ben Stott as Curley and Saoirse-Monica Jackson as his wife, detracted from the impression that Lennie is struggling through a harsh reality that he doesn’t understand. Curley was more amusingly pathetic than feisty and shoulder-chipped. At times in the show, the humour seemed to be misplaced. Whether this was the fault of the audience or the performance is impossible to know, but there were murmured chuckles at Lennie’s behaviour when desperate sadness seemed to be the only appropriate response.

Particular praise should, however, go to Dave Fishley for his portrayal of Crooks. He managed to be amusingly mouthy and full of front, yet allowed the audience to glimpse the sadness beneath it. The combination of humour and catharsis in his one-on-one scene with Lennie was a highlight of the production.

The show, despite some minor faults, did justice to this modern classic. It was well-paced with convincing characterisation and great sound design. It will be at Curve until the 28th of May. Tickets can be bought here.


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