Of Mice and Men provides a heartbreaking, bleak and oppressive portrayal of struggling itinerant farmers in the American west. George and Lennie are two such workers; George acts as the brains trying to guarantee the pair work, while simple Lennie tries hard to stay quiet – he’s a little slow. The pair and their relationship are the play’s highlights. Steve Jackson’s Lennie is brilliantly portrayed, with none of the clichés usually trawled up, while William Ash as George, despite an overly pacey start and some accent problems, settles with ease into one of Steinbeck’s most difficult characters.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the rest of the cast. Garry Collins, despite looking perfect for the cruel Curley, had none of the vitriol to make him a true villain. Even worse was Candy (Peter Kelly) who had no variation in either his character or delivery, even when he had a dead body in front of him. These problems gave the characters an unreal quality which was further emphasised by the tech and staging.
The sound design was poor; there has never been a worse gunshot on stage, while the scene changes seemed clumsy in their execution, particularly when a massive haystack on wheels trundled forward for one scene.
The fact that people left the theatre crying is less a compliment to the production but more to Steinbeck; this story is both timeless and powerful. Small issues are not enough to damage Steinbeck’s message, no matter how many there were.