Unlike the majority of my compatriots, my purpose for watching the stage version of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men was not because I couldn’t be bothered to read the book. In reality, I know the novella backwards. My reason for watching it was a) I had nothing better to do on a Tuesday night, and b) I’m trying to see as much theatre as physically possible, without me actually setting up camp in the foyer of the Theatre Royal Bath.

Touring until 28th May, the Touring Consortium Theatre Company’s production is decent. On the mediocre side of decent, but still decent. I’m an advocate of ‘challenging’ theatre, that makes me sit on the edge of my seat and dither about crying/throwing up/fainting, and at the end I’m forced to sit with my head in my hands and re-think the meaning of life. Robert Icke, I’m looking at you.

Alas, challenging was not what I got. There were two ‘wincing’ moments; both when I was anticipating gunshots. Other than that, all that kept my attention was Kristian Phillips and William Rodell’s fantastic Lennie-George relationship, and Slim’s magnificent leg muscles. There were interesting little details – including the revelation that Curley’s wife is a person, not a doll – that did interest me, but wandering interest was the prevailing mood of the evening. Interesting choice of design, interesting music, interesting set changes; but nothing that made me go ‘OH FUCK THAT WAS INCREDIBLE WHOEVER THOUGHT OF THAT IS A GENIUS AND I WANT TO MARRY THEM’.

What I really didn’t like, however, was the fact that they ignored Lennie’s hallucinations about the rabbits and Aunt Clara at the very end of the novel. It would have been easy to do; I would either have projected the images onto the sky (I know, that’s a little Hunger Games-esque), or would have done it very stylistically, and had actual actors. But that’s my opinion, and I’m not a director. Yet.

The acting, in general, was decent (bar the Curley-Lennie hand bust-up scene, which from my perspective could not have been worse), with steady American accents. Lennie in particular was played to perfection, and I think that Phillips and Rodell pulled the entire production through. It’s a very useful production to see if you’re studying Of Mice and Men, but I’d rather spend my money on seeing something else, like Uncle Vanya, or Right Now, or Hobson’s Choice. Or anything. Cheltenham Everyman Theatre’s beautiful, though.

Two and a half stars.


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