Picture: Kris Askey

Of Mice and Men

Malvern Theatres


Steinbeck’s famous novella derives its title – Of Mice and Men – from a poem by Robert Burns that says in simple terms that the ‘best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry’. The worthy dreams and plans of George and Lennie are typically and sadly lost and miscarry in the midst of the Great Depression in the USA in the early twentieth century.

George and Lennie typify a large underclass of farm labourers who move from farm to farm, seeking work and eking out a hard and meagre existence in economically desperate times.

Where George and Lennie are unusual is that most of these labourers are loners, devoid of family and indeed close friends. George and Lennie have a strong bond and stick together – in a strange way they both need each other, although Lennie, physically huge and strong but mentally challenged, relies on George in particular to lead him out of successive calamities.

The novella, and this production, explore the themes of the great American Dream and its emptiness, and the loneliness of many of the characters in this hard and depressing world.

As this production opens we are presented with a clever but harsh set: the angular, hard, wooden beams and joists and the restricted lighting set a demoralising tone into which the two are plunged.

george and Lennie

Tom McCall as George and William Young as Lennie. Picture: Ciaran Bagnall

George does his utmost to protect Lennie from his vulnerability and inability to manage his great physical strength. However, these vulnerabilities land them in repeated crises. 

Tom McCall plays George very strongly and convincingly. At times he toys with Lennie, sometimes soothes, sometimes manipulates him, ultimately tries to manage and control the uncontrollable. His frustration is balanced by his empathy. An excellent performance.

Lennie played by William Young is a pathetic character, still child-like in so many mannerisms and character. He cannot resist petting the soft things in his world, but then so easily panics and cannot control his unnatural physical strength. His occasional rocking was very effective.

The remaining roles are well characterised. Slim, the well-respected team leader, is performed with total conviction by Simon Darwen. Reece Pantry plays the disabled Crooks, Riad Richie as Curley and Maddy Hill as his lonely and frustrated wife, Lee Ravitz as the aged and pitiable Candy whose dog has to be put down, all perform well.

At times the accents varied and clarity of diction sometimes made hearing challenging, but this was a faithful and solid interpretation of a sad tale, a depiction of a harsh, amoral and depressing world where hope is focused on impractical dreams that will never be realised.

The production runs at Malvern to 29-04-23

Tim Crow


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