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Review: Of Mice and Men, Opera House Manchester

23 April 2018 | London Calling

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, sees the journey of an unlikely friendship struggle through the hardships of the depression in 1930’s America. Go See This contributor Ella Frances Whitby shares her review of the performance.

The portrayal of the timeless play directed by Guy Unsworth and hosted at Manchester’s Opera House opens powerfully. Playful lighting travels through the panels of the cleverly structured wooden set, mirroring the time passing as principle characters George and Lenny continue their long journey to find a ranch on which they can earn money by bucking barley. The performances from both principle characters were impressive; Richard Keightley who takes on the role of George is compelling in his ability to highlight his inner conflict between what he wants and what he has and Matthew Wynn as Lenny convincingly allows innocence and naivety to break through his masculine frame.

The play tackles many extremely important issues such as racism, women’s rights and attitudes towards disability. Though written with 1930’s America in mind, these issues are still incredibly relevant in society today and the individual character stories are still very much relatable.

The supporting cast must be praised for their energy and commitment. Andrew Boyer who plays the old and frail Candy stands out for his ability to confront many hard hitting crucial moments within the play. He is also able to build a believable and heart warming relationship with his pet dog, which is represented through the use of a puppet. In a drama such as this it is uncommon for puppets to be used, but it was a concept I thoroughly enjoyed as Boyer was able to emotively convey the love he felt for the dog without the puppetry becoming a distraction.

Though written with 1930’s America in mind, these issues are still incredibly relevant in society today and the individual character stories are still very much relatable.

The puppet is just one of many exciting attributes contributing to the visual aspects of the show. The Set Designer, David Woodhead, did a fantastic job. The wooden structure that surrounds the width of the stage is adaptable and changes allowing for smooth transitions between scenes and the use of wood is a perfect fit in representing a rural location. Sound Engineer Benjamin Grant uses very natural and realistic sounds that compliment the set design, whilst the lighting by Bretta Gerecke helps to build tension in many scenes. Light also makes its way in to the audience towards the end of the play allowing for an intimate moment to develop.

Overall, this adaptation of Of Mice and Men was very enjoyable. With the extremely well written plot you go on a real journey which will cause you to both laugh and cry. I would definitely recommend it to those who aren’t shy of shedding a tear. My advice would be to have your tissues at the ready!

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