For many, John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” will bring back memories of analysing every last detail of the 1937 prose in GCSE English. For the Touring Consortium Theatre Company and Birmingham Repertory Theatre, “Of Mice and Men” is the latest touring production, which stopped off at Darlington Civic Theatre on Tuesday, March 15th, 2016.
Set in America during the Great Depression, the play tells the story of two migrant farm workers, George (William Rodell) and Lennie (Kristian Phillips), who go in search of new beginnings in the hope of attaining their shared dream: of putting together enough money to buy a small piece of land and building a home.
After a long and exhausting journey, they arrive at a farm in California where they seek work. But they are no strangers to trouble and soon find themselves reeling from the fallout of an innocent misunderstanding which spirals out of control and leaves the two men facing an earth-shattering climax.
The main driving force in “Of Mice and Men” is George and Lennie’s friendship, which is clearly evident in this interpretation. Both William Rodell and Kristian Phillips deliver extremely strong performances in their respective roles, with the pair forming a solid chemistry for the entirety of the play.
Rodell brilliantly depicts a character committed to finding a balance between a respected leader and kind-hearted friend to Lennie, whilst Phillips’s portrayal of Lennie regularly forces an emotional response to his own struggles, bringing a touch of humour to the role. Such factors make the devastating climax even more traumatic.
However, the real star of the show is Dudley Sutton as Candy. His sensitive nature and admiration towards the other characters, in particular his dog (portrayed by local pup, Flint), makes him incredibly likeable, and you can’t help but feel empathy towards him following the death of his canine companion.
Another standout feature is Liz Ascroft’s ambitious, yet cleverly-designed set, which creates a real sense of a Californian valley setting, while also allowing the action to slickly change from one set piece to the next. In addition, the decision to show the cast positioned at the sides of the stage is an intriguing one, yet works in the play’s favour.
The Touring Consortium Theatre Company and Birmingham Repertory Theatre’s interpretation of “Of Mice and Men” is a brilliant take on the classic story, exploring its many themes and ideas. A must-see.
“Of Mice and Men” is at Darlington Civic Theatre from Tuesday, March 15th, 2016 until Saturday, March 19th, 2016. Tickets can be purchased from the box office and website.