TV Editors Alex Taylor and Josie Scott-Taylor find Of Mice and Men to be hit and miss with certain themes in terms of adaptation but overall find the show to be insightful
Of Mice and Men is a tale of enduring friendship amidst the futility of trying to achieve the American Dream in the wake of the Great Depression. Written nearly a century ago, the consistent stream of adaptations and retellings is indicative of its enduring [pertinence]. The friendship between George (Tom McCall) and Lennie (William Young) is what carries the story. This is especially poignant amidst the backdrop of temporary acquaintances, stopgap jobs, and an unbreakable cycle of poverty, that is all the more tragic by the characters’ persistent hope for a better life.
The chemistry between George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men is obvious before either character even utters a line, and is beautifully reinforced through the abstract sequence of flowing fabric and Lennie’s unadulterated delight, of which places the audience momentarily into the mind of the character. The sparse moments of innocent joy and platonic chemistry are constantly overshadowed by the audience’s knowledge of what awaits the characters. The use of red fabric consolidates the representation of the colour throughout the play, acting as a symbol for not only Lennie’s past, but also as a haunting reminder of what awaits him in the future.
Lennie’s dream of tending the rabbits and enjoying life’s simplest pleasures with George is made even less tangible to the audience through the sparseness of the set. The stage remains relatively bare throughout the play, mostly consisting of just wooden planks, symbolising the unreachable nature of each character’s dreams. William Young, who reprised his role as Lennie, has Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum and complex learning disabilities, which not only provides the play with disability representation, but creates a richer and more nuanced performance of the character.
At times, the play’s quiet and sombre mood borders on tiresome, and it feels like it could benefit from a slightly shorter runtime. The seemingly random ensemble musical sections also create a somewhat disjointed tone; although some songs are promising, the sound design lacks the consistency for the music to be effective. The lone guitarist whose performances punctuates several of the scenes did provide smooth transitions, though, creating a melancholic atmosphere that captures the tone of Of Mice and Men.
One of the stars of Of Mice and Men is Candy’s decrepit dog, an incredibly lifelike puppet controlled by Jake Benson. Another standout was Curley’s wife (Maddy Hill), who becomes an even more tragic figure in the play, elevated from her position on the sidelines in the novel. She shares a touching scene with Lennie, where she opens up about her dream of being a movie star. Despite the fact that the violence is tamer than it is in the novel, her tragic death acts as the catalyst for the final part of the story, leading to the gut wrenching decision George makes. The play culminates in the heartwarming hug the two actors share immediately after the final scene, adding to its emotional weight.
Despite the occasional unintelligible accent, and the intermittent problematic laughter that Lennie sometimes evoked from the audience, this adaptation of Of Mice and Men captures the oppressive and heartbreaking themes of Steinbeck’s novel, and provides the overdue elevation of previously underdeveloped characters.
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