REVIEW: Of Mice and Men: Theatre Royal

April 20, 2016

gscene men4Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck

Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place…with us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us.

Set in America during the Great Depression, this classic play tells the story of George and Lennie, two migrant farm workers, 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.

Gscene men2After a long and exhausting journey, the pair arrive at a farm in California where they seek work. But they are no strangers to trouble and soon find themselves reeling from the fall out of an innocent misunderstanding which spirals out of control and leaves the two men, bound together by friendship, facing an earth-shattering climax.

The Touring Consortium Theatre Company headed by Director Roxana Silbert has pulled a tight show from this story, concentrating on the small things, the details that really bring the larger story to life,  as Steinbeck himself  focuses on tiny details, the dead mouse and puppy, the softness of chairs, hair and fur,  to tell a meta story about American Culture and hope  in the 1930’s. This is helped along by the sparse but functional set and costumes from Designer Liz Ascroft who weaves the nuts and bolts of the staging seamlessly into the storytelling itself, giving this production  an authentic feeling of workers and work going on around the unfolding narrative .

gscenemen1This is a complex play about simple people, doing simple things with terrible consequences, it’s about love, kindness and brutality and the ties that bind them.  Steinbeck is not an easy writer for a modern sensibility, some of the words are harsh, he has a serious issue with women and the play demonstrates this with no redress, but this is a ‘warts and all’ production of a period piece that at least allows the subtleties of the plot to be explored in emotion and voice tone from the actors which rescues some of the more problematic dialogue.

William Rodell and Kristian Phillips as the two main characters, George and Lennie capture the careful and delicate and sometimes desperate connection between these two men, more than friends but not quite brothers. Needy and needed mutually Bromance.  Rodell and Phillips tease out the reasons behind this fatal bond and how the consequences of over protection and unrequited need can play out in devastating ways. It’s a super double act, touching and vibrant in equal parts and the ending, even when you knows what’s coming was dreadfully awfully wretched and I had to look away.  Phillips get’s the simple oaf touch perfect, always a difficult balancing act to capture the essential innocence of Lennies’ state of mind. Rodell is also very easy on the eye, which is always a bonus in case the acting is a bit ropey, not a worry this evening. Great acting, real emotive energy on the stage this evening and I would recommend taking in this show just to catch this pair orbiting around their central hopes and fears.  I felt the very final scene could have held the dramatic tension for just a short while longer before the lights went up,  just to leave us in the dark, pondering, shocked, mourning what’s happened before actors leaping up grinning into their applause.

gscene men3The supporting cast are very good with the little they get to do and Saoirse-Monica Jackson as ‘Curley’s wife’ manages to squeeze some empathy out of this misunderstood catalytic role and Dave Fishley as Crooks does that same with his plea for dignity and bookish bitterness.

This was an authentic, engaging and gripping production of Mice and Men thoroughly  appreciated the by audience.  The book is popular for study and the Theatre Royal was utterly rammed with excited teenagers buzzing with being out on the town, I dreaded the endless mobile phone and chatting but they were gripped into silence from the off. Their absorption is  testament to the quality of this production that the cast silenced and engaged hundreds of very excited teens up to the very final devastating moment and took the rest of us along with them keeping the narrative tension up to the end.


Until April 23rd

For more info or to book tickets see the Theatre Royal website


Theater Royal

New Road


East Sussex