George and Lennie

Tom McCall as George and Wiliam Young as Lennie. Pictures: Mark Senior

Of Mice and Men

Birmingham Rep


Of Mice and Men, directed by Iqbal Khan, an Associate Director of Birmingham Rep, is a brave modern production of John Steinbeck's classic novel. The play follows the story of two migrant workers, George and Lennie, during the Great Depression as they try to achieve the dream of owning a farm.

It is a tale of friendship, loyalty and the pursuit of the American Dream, set against a hot backdrop of poverty, hardship, and social and racial inequality.

Whilst Steinbeck's novel, published first in 1937, has been widely regarded as a masterpiece of American literature, the issues it raises remain. The book won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 1939, although its frank portrayal of poverty, racism, and mental illness also made it controversial.

The final act of brutality in the story is still shocking by today’s standards yet while in the past it was censored in schools and libraries, the novel has remained a popular and enduring work.

Iqbal Khan Stays true to the spirit of Steinbeck's original novel but the transition to the expanse of the stage is not without its problems .The setting and approach are questionable. The set features a contemporary design of wooden beams that suggest a bunk house or railroad but is one that dominates the often intimate performances.



Lee Ravitz as Candy, the old farm hand who has seen it all before.

There feels little suggestion of the heat other than the wiping of brows. The effort to add some spiritual musicality to the production also feels divisive and theatrically forced and does little to add fully to the atmosphere.

Tom McCall’s portrayal of George however is compelling; conveying the character's intelligence, quick-wittedness, and compassion and his strong performance carries the weight of the production. George is a divided and complex soul in his friendship to Lennie, which is both a blessing and curse, yet his final act of brutality against him is lost in the production values. William Young's portrayal of Lennie is equally skilful if at times faltering in fully conveying the man’s vulnerability and his mental disabilities.

Reece Pantry as Crooks gives an authentic rendition of a man ostracised by the colour of his skin. Lee Ravitz plays Candy the old farm hand linking the fates of so many of the characters but at times was lost audibly in the expanse of the set.  Riad Ritchie as Curley wasted no opportunity to race around in jealousy over his new flirtatious wife played by Maddy Hill.

Edward Judge made his mark with a purposeful delivery of Carlson as did Simon Quigley as Whit. Simon Darwen as Slim was notable as the cool bunkhouse character and willing ear to George’s tales of hardship.  

Of Mice and men is a compassionate yet shocking tale. Iqbal Khan's attempt to produce a visual slant on this timeless story falls short and pumping the real muscle it needs into its themes would elevate this production to a more moving outcome. It’s an engaging piece of theatre but one that leaves you as an observer to the events rather than emotionally bound to the depth of Steinbeck’s vision. To 08-04-23.

Jeff Grant


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