Even the gigantic figure of Lennie (Steve Jackson) is dwarfed by the huge wooden sets of John Dove’s production of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice And Men. The ramshackle bunk beds and stable walls soar with the mood of post-depression America, where men eke out whatever living they can, protecting both their earnings and their hopes by remaining insular and alone.
Lennie and George (William Ash) are the exception. They travel together, with George taking on a parental role for his simple-minded companion. With dreams of owning their own farm where they can live off the ‘fat of the land’, their fates are set when they take on jobs as ranch hands. Here, Lennie’s love for ‘soft things’ leads the pair down a different road: one where dreams and relationships are under constant and inevitable threat.
The leads are strong: Jackson succeeds in depicting Lennie without caricature, evoking sympathy for the lumbering soul who wishes only for happiness but doesn’t know his own strength. Ash’s portrayal as the caring idealist George is a little less well-defined, although their scenes together as inseparable companions convince.
Peter Kelly shows the best characterisation as the aged one-handed Candy; Liam Brennan’s Slim is the stoical, strong & measured cowboy-type, who also proves to be the most sympathetic. Melody Grove is the only female cast member: her role as Curley’s wife starts as one treated with contempt; by her character’s end, Grove succeeds in evoking pity for this caged bird with dashed dreams.
With its theme of hopes & dreams endangered by gripping onto them too tightly, Of Mice and Men is a classic examination of the human condition. Dove’s production under Colin Richmond’s towering set is a traditional and at times powerful version of the Steinbeck original, but its intimacy and subtlety is at times overshadowed by the expanse of the staging and direction.
Of Mice And Men runs until 17 March at The Royal Lyceum Theatre. More details are on the Lyceum website.