dfp_header_hidden_string

Get our free email newsletter with just one click

Of Mice and Men review at Theatre Royal, Brighton – ‘an underpowered adaptation’

Matthew Wynn and Richard Keightley in Selladoor's Of Mice and Men. Photo: Scott Rylander Matthew Wynn and Richard Keightley in Selladoor's Of Mice and Men. Photo: Scott Rylander

Selladoor Productions’ new adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Depression-era classic has its heart in the right place, but is hampered by a plodding pace and uneven tone.

Richard Keightley and Matthew Wynn have a convincing chemistry as itinerant workers George and Lennie, whose dreams of independence flounder in the reality of their hardscrabble lives. George is alternatively protective and exasperated, Lennie blundering, affectionate and with a surprising capacity for slyness.

A capable supporting cast includes Andrew Boyer, sympathetic as an ageing farmhand, and Kamran Darabi Ford, a suitably petulant Curley. The claustrophobia of a life where men are penned together like cattle is reinforced by David Woodhead’s stylish set.

The production doesn’t shy away from the era’s racism and misogyny: black labourer Crooks (a sharp Kevin Mathurin) is envied for having his own room, but is desperately lonely, forbidden from the easy camaraderie of the white men’s quarters; Curley’s wife (not even dignified with a name) is dismissed as a ‘tart’, but Rosemary Boyle emphasises her isolation, stuck in a terrible marriage on a farm full of men who won’t talk to her.

Director Guy Unsworth delivers a few well-judged moments but, overlong and meandering, the piece never finds the emotional heft it needs. It’s also hard not to baulk at the treatment of the only female character. Ugly as it is, her death is simply as escalation of Lennie’s unintentional violence, a step up from mice and puppy dogs, meaningful only as a trigger to the greater tragedies of the men.

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.

Subscribers to The Stage get 10% off The Stage Tickets’ price
Verdict
Solidly performed, but underpowered, adaptation of the classic American novel
^