Saturday, 10 November 2012
Of Mice and Men at Nottingham Playhouse
Somehow, despite reading a lot of Steinbeck at school - the Pearl and Grapes of Wrath spring to mind - despite there being a film of the book starring John Malkovitch, despite my teen who's reading it for English GCSE dropping lots of plot spoilers, I'd never read Of Mice and Men and had not even the faintest idea of the plot. The 'reading at school' probably gives a clue to my general attitude towards Steinbeck - once I've been put off something, I rarely try again - but after this performance I may have to change my mind.
Set in 1930s depression America, two drifting ranch hands, George and Lennie, have a dream - to get a little place of their own, with chickens and rabbits, alfalfa and fruit trees. All this depends of course on being able to earn and save the money to pay for it - and life is rarely that simple.
The whole play had a very disturbing violent undercurrent, culminating in a shockingly abrupt ending. A very different location but it reminded me of the desperation of the characters in They Shoot Horses Don't They? There were accomplished performances from all of the cast though I was particularly struck by those 'regulars' I've seen in different roles - Robin Kingsland and Mark Jardine, who I saw in last year's The League of Youth and John Elkington as 'George', a very different part to the one he had in the Importance of Being Earnest.
The major downside to the evening was picking front row upper circle seats. At the time of booking these seemed like the best left available but I wouldn't sit there again! Once the play had started it was possible to ignore the drop just in front of us but (obviously) everything is seen from above and I only realised today, seeing a promotional photo, how tall 'Lennie' was, dwarfing his friend 'George'! In future I'll pick downstairs stalls seats - even if they're towards the back.
I can't finish without a mention of the Star of the Show - Odie Bannerman, a blue merle Australian Shepherd, playing Candy's dog. I don't believe I'm seen a dog live on stage before - plenty of times in films where of course they have the chance of re-shooting a scene but never in the flesh. Odie was wonderfully behaved and completely stole the show!