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23rd April 2018

Review: Of Mice and Men

Jessica Wiehler enjoyed Selladoor’s production of the classic play, but found the experience challenged by differences from the much-studied novel
Review: Of Mice and Men
Photo: Scott Rylander

Of Mice and Men may be one of the only texts that current theatregoers may be more informed on than the production’s creative team. It’s in fine company with the likes of Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, and Mister Pip — Of Mice and Men is a crucial component of many twentysomething’s GCSE English Literature experience.

It taught us the figurative, such as how ‘red’ means ‘danger’.  Yet, despite all of Steinbeck’s foreshadowing, we are still shocked by its ending. I won’t say what it is though, in case it somehow hasn’t been spoiled as it has for many others.

I was surprised to see that John Steinbeck had written the stage adaptation and was curious to see which details of the novella he had included.

Selladoor’s touring production was on for only several days at the Manchester Opera House, the slightly smaller, slightly younger sister to The Palace Theatre. The Opera House sits neatly between Spinningfields and Castlefield on Quay Street.

The set was spectacular — a minimal barn interior that stretched to the full height and width of the stage — and Mark Aspinall’s musical accompaniment was much needed to fill the nineteen-hundred-plus capacity theatre. These two elements worked in tandem to heighten the theatricality of the play. This was necessary, as the story principally revolves around themes of loneliness, oppression and death.

The transitions between scenes were elegant as parts of the set were operated off-stage and we were easily transported from the brush to the dorms. Notably, Steinbeck’s theatre adaptation missed out a lot of places and settings that are mentioned in the novella.

Matthew Wynn played a large, vulnerable and optimistic Lennie to Richard Keightley’s George, who seemed more interested in being ‘one-of-the-boys’ than maintaining the loyal relationship portrayed in the text. This meant that the motivation of George’s actions in the final scene seemed different, but still equally as justified.

All supporting actors gave strong performances that complimented the narrative well, with Andrew Boyer’s performance as Candy unavoidably endearing and sympathy-inducing due to the harsh yet vulnerable quality of his voice. Out of all the characters in Selladoor’s production, I longed for Candy to succeed.

One thing I found slightly irksome however, was the absence of Curley’s wife’s brown hair and iconic red dress. Possibly, Steinbeck intended for the theatrical version to stand separate to his world-renowned book, but my education would not allow my experience to diverge the two.

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