Entering the theatre with mixed expectations, Katie having previously read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck and Lou having no idea about the storyline, we were both uncertain of what we were about to behold in this performance. There always seems to be anticipation regarding a classic play, having the potential to be thoroughly enjoyable or utterly boring.
Excellently directed by Roxana Silbert, we think it is safe to say that it was indeed a thoroughly enjoyable performance that exhibited a wide range of talent and creativity. Before the play had even begun we were in awe of the lighting and set which were extremely captivating and immediately took us back to a beautiful view of 1930s America. The cyclorama was a pallet of swirling pinks and apricots, transforming the set into a deep sunset. Whilst this was very beautiful, the set was fairly simplistic which contrasted nicely: Wooden floorboards with a stream separating the space into two.
Although most of the performance was naturalistic, the audience were actually able to see into the wings where the cast members who weren’t involved in the action on stage, sat and watched the play progress as well as create the sound effects and live background music. It definitely displayed the performers’ many talents and the creative use of voice, whistling and props to enhance the visual impact the audience receives. A few audience members commented that this was a distraction from the performance but if this is the case then for us it was certainly an interesting distraction that added another dimension to the piece.
The biggest highlight of the performance for us was the acting. Benjamin Dilloway and Michael Legge portrayed the characters of Lenny and George exceptionally whilst being extremely convincing. They presented the complex yet loving relationship between the two characters most believably; the two actors were well-matched to each other and created moments of chemistry on stage, especially the scenes just between the two of them. Benjamin Dilloway who played Lenny stood out especially and was an obvious favourite within the audience too, provoking frequent moments of laughter but also sadness. Benjamin captured Lennie’s personality perfectly and we couldn’t imagine a more accurate portrayal.
As a whole, the cast captured the rowdy and hard-working atmosphere of a 1930s American ranch although the odd accent was slightly amiss here and there. However, due to the understated set and convincing acting, we were able to invest in the characters and the progression in their emotional journey. The ending of the play was built up incredibly so that even those audience members, who knew the storyline well, felt the tension and suspense of what was to come.
The show is on at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre until the 1st of November 2014. It runs for 2 hours and 15 minutes with a 20 minute interval. We highly recommend this production for anyone that is up for an emotional, humorous and entertaining portrayal of a classic and well known play.
By Katie Sanghera and Lou Llobell