Presented by The Touring Consortium Theatre Company and A Birmingham Repertory Theatre Production, the classic tale of 'Of Mice and Men' is purely gripping, emotional and pure genius.
Based on the 1937 novella of the same name written by John Steinbeck, the story follows follows two men, George and Lennie, as they take on a new job working on a ranch in central California "bucking barley" for the ranch owner and his son. George and Lennie begin the story at a River where they discuss their past discussing how they have come to be here and where they are going.
The men have come from Weed where Lennie has done something that has forced them to run away. The two men arrive at the ranch the following day, begin work, and meet the other characters. These characters are a mixture of ranch hands and ranch owners. Lennie encounters the boss's son, Curley, and is threatened by him. The men also meet Curley's wife. George predicts that she will bring trouble to them. Lennie feels the threat from both Curley and his wife. The story reaches its climax after Lennie kills Curley's wife and runs back to the river from the beginning of the show and as expected an emotional and heart stopping scene evolved before you.
Kristin Phillips plays the loveable Lennie Small and excels in this role. His likeable nature and amazing body language and connection to other characters are envious and Phillips has clearly worked hard to understand and create his character. George Milton was played by the very talented William Rodell and seemed to have a sincere relationship with Lennie. Rodell specifically brought together his skills in the final moments of the show when the atmosphere was particularly tense and heart stopping. Dudley Sutton (Candy) is a true professional and brought a softer and warmer character to the show. His scene which included the extremely sad moment his dog of many years was killed was an amazing display of character and skill. Jonah Russell plays Slim and became the most important man on the ranch throughout the show, being a character people could count on and always had a plan of action. Russell is a tremendous actor and played the part wonderfully which special mention in his excellent accent which seemed one of the most accurate vocal selections of the production.
Crooks, the broken backed stable hand of the ranch, was played by the fantastic Dave Fishley has a great portrayal of a character with a physical problem and always seemed to be fully aware of his back problems. Fishley was also a great musician and brought all the sounds of the South together.
The staging for the piece was marvellous and a real highlight, the large set pieces and smaller touches really made the production an incredible success. Designed by Liz Ascroft and Roxana Silbert it was the perfect mix of simple set and deeper meaning, such as the large veranda in the stage which was used as a river but also symbolises "the fault line in Lennie's head". The music in the show was a fantastic touch which helped to build suspense and tense action whilst also having the ability to be used to open the show and also in the transitions between the scenes. Special mention to all cast members who also had to play instruments within the performance at the same moment as maintaining a character.
The whole ensemble worked together beautifully, each actor complimenting each character. The fantastic work that has been done in the rehearsal room was shown clearly and the depth into which these professionals delved into those characters was a success. This production of 'Of Mice and Men' is a masterpiece and I would be happy to see it over and over and over again. A pure joy to watch these great actors at work, portraying such complex character and projecting such a classic tale.
The production continues on its UK Tour so I highly suggest going to @TCTCompany on Twitter or www.theatrecloud.com for further details on when the show opens near you.
Reviewer: Brad Wilson
Reviewed: 22nd March 2016