REVIEW: Of Mice and Men @ The Opera House, Manchester

Many people are familiar with John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men either as admirers of the American literary giant or having studied it at school.

The story is centred around the unlikely coupling of George and his mentally disabled companion Lenny – a gentle giant unaware of his own strengt.

They are bound together by a mutual dependence and both harbour an unattainable longing for a utopia in which they will have a place of their own, where they will rear chickens, tend rabbits and live off the the fat of the land.

Steinbeck is rightly revered as a champion of the downtrodden and oppressed giving a voice to the poor and migrant workers of the American dustbowl.

You might say that you can’t go wrong with the the classic ingredients of a Steinbeck story – but you can if you mess about with those ingredients.

I’m not sure whether it is the result of the interpretation in this production at the Opera House or whether it was down to Steinbeck himself, but there were some strange departures from original text.

Fortunately the heart of the play, which relies on the relationship between exasperated George and his companion is not lost.

And the performances by Richard Keightley (George ) and Matthew Wynn as Lennie are touching, with well crafted portrayals of the elderly Candy from Andrew Boyer and Crooks from Kevin Mathurin

But Curly’s Wife, trapped in a world she is desperate to escape, is given new lines and different edge to her character that doesn’t quite fit. Rosemary Boyle does well with what she’s been given in this production, but what she’s been given is not the Curly’s wife I remember. In this version before the inevitable tragic encounter with Lenny, she has suitcase in hand and is ready to leave. But the Curly’s Wife I know would never leave. She is trapped.

But although this show could have been better in my view, it maintains the heart and soul of Steinbeck’s story and is certainly worth seeing.

Runs till Saturday.

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