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Of Mice and Men

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars


Everyone's on the make in John Steinbeck's recession era novella that doubles up as a play, revived here in his latest look at American classics by director John Dove. Migrant workers George and Lennie may only want to earn an honest buck when they land on a Californian ranch to work the land, but the crop of malcontents they fall in with occupy what is essentially a microcosm of assorted American dreams that have been warped by capitalism. The solidarity and brotherhood that George and Lennie represent is considered suspicious by the rest of the workers, a menagerie of lost souls trying to protect the little they have. Candy is marking time until he's put out to grass, racism is legitimised, while Curley's wife is a wannabe starlet who, in Melody Grove's portrayal, sashays her way to her doom. Such, then, is the state of play during a recession.

All of this beautifully realised on Colin Richmond's wood-lined shack of a set, with William Ash's George and Steve Jackson's Lennie a perfectly pitched double act that never over-sentimentalises Lennie's slow-wittedness. Dove's cast navigate their way instead through a set of collective dysfunctions of little people looking for a way out and finding only scapegoats, as Lennie clings to anything soft or shiny for comfort, holding on too hard and never knowing when to let go.

If some of this at times looks slight compared to Steinbeck's masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath, a pathos prevails throughout. This is especially so at the play's close, when George is forced to make the ultimate mercy killing, as Lennie's promised land awaits.

The Herald, February 20th 2012


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