John Steinbeck’s classic novella
Despite being abridged, the novella’s main themes remain largely intact and audiences will find much to enjoy in the skilled interpretations of Steinbeck’s iconic characters.
Fringe Management’s new production strips this well-known story down to its core: the set is minimal, the props scant and the company consists of just two actors. Michael Roy Andrew is the determined, loyal dreamer George. Nigel Miles-Thomas is his simple-minded, soft-hearted friend Lennie.
This production’s decision to perform the story as a two-man show cleverly emphasises the sense that Lennie and George are the most important people in each other’s lives. We see how together they form a united, unwavering front against the ordeals and tribulations of the outside world.
Physically, both actors perfectly resemble Steinbeck’s descriptions. Both also give convincing and nuanced performances. Roy Andrew astutely conveys how much George relies on and needs Lennie, despite his frequent protestations. Meanwhile Miles-Thomas perceptively juxtaposes Lennie’s dangerous physicality with his core innocence.
In the opening, this two-hander adaptation creates an appropriately Waiting for Godot ambience. As our two protagonists talk of their shared dream of settling down on their own land, even those unfamiliar with Steinbeck’s novel will sense the unlikeliness of this dream becoming realised.
This decision to concentrate on the central relationship is worthy and well-executed. However unlike Beckett’s play, Steinbeck’s story relies on the action of other characters to propel it forward. The production’s solution to this dilemma is to talk about key characters and events, rather than show them. Alternatively, the sense of a character’s presence is conveyed through props and physicality and Lennie and George speaking to the absent supporting characters as if they were there.
How effective you find this technique will largely depend on your familiarity with the book. Those who have read the text will fill in any gaps, those who have not may struggle to keep track of these characters and their importance. Characters such as Curley, Slim and Curley’s wife become less tangible and consequently some of the novel’s subtleties are lost.
Nevertheless, Of Mice and Men remains a compelling and well-acted production. Despite being abridged, the novella’s main themes remain largely intact and audiences will find much to enjoy in Roy Andrew and Miles-Thomas’ skilled interpretations of Steinbeck’s iconic characters.