In 1929, the Great Depression took place when New York witnessed its Wall Street Crash, leaving 15 million Americans unemployed. ★★★★
This affected most of the western world, and though it only lasted ten years, the repercussions were felt for decades to come. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck, depicts the many farmers who migrated to California, as the drought felt in those times made a lot of them flee from states like Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma in attempt to find better farming conditions. However, many were rejected and forced to find residence in the OC valleys.
The Birmingham Rep and The Touring Consortium bring Of Mice and Men to The Rep’s main house, where we see a very ambitious set, stripped down backstage, great acting, and we were privileged to witness the world debut of Arthur – the character Candy’s – dog.
Though it was identical in terms of style and effect from the previous time it was shown at The Rep (2014), this one seemed to have been uplifted by a change of cast and by using a real dog. The cast was terrific; in particular Kristian Phillips who played Lenny, whose characterisation and physicality transported us deeper into the story both contextually and emotionally.
The scene where the dog was shot was so much more heartfelt by using Arthur (General manager’s dog) to come alive as Candy’s pet, with many ‘awws’ sounding from the audience. I would say that Arthur created more of an attachment to Candy, played by Dudley Sutton and the audience. Dudley played the role magnificently, it was both sweet and endearing, especially when Candy was excited about cooking and looking after the vegetable patch in the new house. William Rodell did a great job in terms of energy when portraying George; Saoirse-Monica Jackson did a good job with Curley’s wife, and though the characterisation was slightly overdone at the beginning, she did an excellent job in the barn scene with Lenny, just before her death.
The set design, created by Liz Ascroft, was incredibly well built, not only in terms of structure, but the imagination behind it made it feel like it was in a Californian valley, and there was a lot heat; the barn was excellent with the way it poured down from the ceiling to the floor.
A great show, and a treat to all generations that came to watch, and even for those who did not know the play, they had a great first introduction.
Of Mice And Men plays at The Birmingham Rep until the 13th Feb
by Alex DaSilva | @AlexMDaSilva