Of Mice and Men, Edinburgh Lyceum, Theatre Review


For anyone unfamiliar with John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men, it is a simple yet undoubtedly compelling tale of hardship and alienation. Set in California during the Great Depression, the story centres around two migrant ranch workers, George (William Ash) and Lennie (Steve Jackson), as they go in search of employment and security. George is the brains of the outfit, making all the decisions and ensuring both men have a roof over their heads, whilst Lennie is a big and loveable soul; he is not the brightest of sparks, but is undeniably an excellent worker.

Set and costume designer Colin Richmond does well to capture the semblance of Steinbeck’s fable, creating a stark yet oppressive stage which outlines the worn walls of a barn littered with straw and coloured with a mix of warm yellows and light browns. The result is that the viewer gets caught up in the world of the rural West and immerses themselves in the story that ensues.

While on the whole accents are solid, at moments they appear forced and unconvincing, leading to moments of wavering believability. The actors are generally well cast, with George and Lennie being particularly notable. Their ability to portray the ethos of Steinbeck’s characters, through the successful capturing of both men’s plight and victimisation, is commendable and allows a certain degree of empathy.

Despite only being one of the minor characters, John Macauley’s portrayal of the crippled skinner Crooks is powerfully moving and therefore also worth noting. A character who exists in an openly-racist culture, Macauley manages to beautifully evoke the awkward isolation created as a result of a hostile social division. This combined with an impressive encapsulation of the character’s debilitating back injury makes for an endearing and ultimately compelling performance.

Though the play takes a while to get going, this is arguably due to the slow moving dialogue that builds gradually to a closing crescendo. By the end of the first half, the audience find itself encompassed in the struggles of the lead characters and the sympathies that go with them. However, this sympathy is inconsistent. Certain scenes, such as the execution of Candy’s dog, are excellent in their ability to create tension, but unfortunately, this level of engagement is not maintained throughout. Considerable moments of the play feel drawn out and lack conviction; so while the performance is certainly amiable, it is ultimately capricious.

Taken from The Student, published Tue Feb 21st 2012.

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