Steinbeck’s famous novella captures and comments on the daily despair faced by the migrant workers in the Great Depression of the 1930’s, as they aimlessly drift from job to job, barely scraping together enough to survive. These are men with no roots, family or friends, where the American Dream is a dim, distant concept. But Lennie and George are different; they have each other. "Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place... With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got somebody to talk to that gives a damn about us."
A well-constructed, minimalist two-hander
Lennie (Nigel Miles-Thomas) and George (Michael Roy Andrew) are physically perfect for the roles and give convincing performances, as they bump along as best they can in an uncaring world without a safety net. We feel George’s acute frustration with Lennie but we also sense his kindness and humanity, as he tries to protect the huge man-child that is Lennie. There is a good rapport between the two characters, and we feel George’s pain as he tries to cope with Lennie’s childlike needs.
This is a well-constructed, minimalist two-hander, which captures the futility of life as a misfit in a world filled with loners and drifters. However, whilst understanding the constraints of producing a 60 minute Fringe play on a limited budget, I would be lying if I said that reducing this story to a two hander did not affect the rich story and Steinbeck’s message of wanting to celebrate: "greatness of heart and spirit... for gallantry in defeat, for courage, compassion and love. In the endless war against weakness and despair, these are the bright rally flags of hope."
With all the skill in the world, it is inevitable that nuances will be lost and dramatic highlights diminished without the presence of the damaged but colourful characters of Curley, Curley’s wife, Crooks, Candy, Candy’s dog, Slim etc. Unfortunately, by reducing these characters to a mere referral – albeit with some brief abridged retrospective dialogue – or by conversing with the imaginary character, much of the pathos is lost and we are left feeling cheated. Having said that, there is much to applaud as there are moments that are compelling and moving in this production, as the actors succeed in evoking the impossibility of surviving in a cruel world where acts of altruism and empathy are rare and where dreams are inevitably crushed.