Of Mice and Men is one of those titles you can’t help but instantly recognise, and the Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company are fully aware of an audience that’s walking in with a knowledge of the plot, and, often, a love of the novel. They use this as a tool to convey, with honesty, a story that may be dear to many an audience member’s heart. Never venturing from Steinbeck’s original storyline, Of Mice and Men is exactly what you’d expect.
The story revolves around two friends, George and Lennie, who are two ranch workers ultimately working towards a better life. From beginning to end, there’s no denying, it is their friendship Director Giles Croft wants us to be focusing on. As the stage curtain lifts and the audience is met with a striking, sloping set from ceiling to the floor in which the performance takes place, it gives us a clear indication of the loneliness, and emptiness, many of these characters are experiencing. The sense of the two friends being the central focus is overwhelming, and the audience can’t help being drawn in.
Sadly this is somewhat short lived in the first act. A play set in California during the Great Depression, performed by actors from the UK, is going to have one major flaw with its dialogue – the accents. It’s fair to say the audience has to make a conscious decision to look past this and forgive the actors for not being able to perfect an accent which so many of us recognise, but very few can actually impersonate. With time, the subtle affection behind George and Lennie’s friendship shines through and it’s impossible to not be pulled into the hopes and dreams of these two characters performed by John Elkington and Daniel Hoffmann-Gill.
Hoffman-Gill would certainly be classed as the stand out performance of the piece. Portraying a role that confuses so many of the other characters, there is no confusion for the audience, who immediately warm to him, and are filled with compassion towards him. Hoffman-Gill doesn’t overact the part, nor does he try and shy away from Lennie’s captivating personality or his innocent outlook on the unhappy world around him. Instead, he brings a dose of optimism to an otherwise bleak storyline.
Of Mice and Men is exactly as any fan of the novel would hope – Steinbeck’s original story acted out on stage with very little additions. For any admirer of theatre who enjoys seeing a spectacle of theatrical drama, stunts and shocking plot twists this may not be for you. But, for those who would enjoy an emotive, simple performance, which mirrors many aspects of our own hopeful society, I would strongly recommend Of Mice and Men. Steinbeck himself said that dreaming was ‘the sadness, the greatness and the triumph of our species’, and this production not only conveys a strong sense of dreaming, but does so by filling the room with sadness, greatness and triumph.