Of Mice and Men at Birmingham Rep – our Raring2go! review.
John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men made a huge impression on my own daughters, who studied it while at school. I recall it sparked some deep and sometimes quite dark conversations at home, so I was particularly keen to see this production at Birmingham Rep. It’s really tempting to give away the plot, but for those who have never read the novel, I absolutely recommend that you go see it for yourself on stage – so I will avoid giving any spoilers! But I will give you a basis for the themes of the novel and the play, in case you don’t know anything about it. Of Mice and Men explores human relationships, and the strengths and endurance of these relationships even in difficult circumstances. It is about survival but also about hope and aspirations. It is about inequality linked to ability, (and touches on inequality linked to race and sex). It is about acceptance, love and sacrifice. It is overwhelmingly tragic too. While the novel is 86 years old, these themes are as relevant today as they were in 1937.
With minimal props, clever backdrops and atmospheric music, the story unfolds around the main characters George and Lennie. These were played beautifully by Tom McCall (George) and William Young (Lennie). The character Lennie has learning difficulties. Knowing this beforehand, I was VERY unsure how I would react to an actor playing Lennie, so I was really pleased to read in the program that William Young – an actor who himself has complex learning difficulties – was cast in the role. William’s own lived experience gave him massive insight into how Lenny would be feeling, moving and reacting throughout – he made the character on stage genuine and believable. In fact, the term ‘brilliant’ springs to mind!
The relationship between Lennie and George is moving and funny, protective and loyal, and the actors captured that exquisitely from the start. Again, ‘brilliant’ just about sums it up!
All the actors in the play were faultless, but our other favourite character on stage was Candy, played perfectly by Lee Ravitz. That accent and southern American drawl must have taken so long to perfect (at one point I was so convinced that it could be genuine, I ‘did a search’. Lee is from London, it was indeed great acting).
The play took us on a rollercoaster of emotions, and was so beautifully performed by all that the standing ovation at the end was absolutely no surprise. Of Mice and Men is directed by Rep Associate Director, Iqbal Khan, who also directed the Opening Ceremony for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. This play is indeed another triumph for him – if you do get chance to go, we highly recommend it!
Of Mice and Men is playing on stage at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre until 9th April 2023.