Let’s face it – Of Mice and Men is a classic.
It’s also on the school GCSE list as a study text and probably familiar to many more people in the average theatre audience than most 20th century plays.
I’ve read both the original John Steinbeck novella and the play, and seen the film on more occasions that I care to recall, so I was slightly nervous about watching the results of a new thespian group, Centre Stage, in their production at Lytham’s Lowther Pavilion. Unfairly perhaps, I had prepared myself for something average … so what a delight it was to witness the two central characters of George (Tony Lancaster) and Lennie (Chris Campbell) giving stellar performances.
Both managed to sustain the American drawl throughout, although Tony occasionally overworked his accent in a very wordy role. He captured George beautifully though, gently dominating the slow-witted Lennie and steering many of the scenes with a strong stage presence. But he was outshone by Chris Campbell whose nuanced performance provided compelling theatre. Even when the focus was not on his character – the nervous, lumbering Lennie – his subtle body language and understated mannerisms spoke volumes.
Ian Edmundson as Candy, the disabled farmhand, and Claire Gaskell as Curley’s straying wife, also gave strong supporting performances.
There were some minor irritations with the inconsistency of the American accents, which varied from overstated to … well, Lancastrian, but the supporting characters were carried along by the leads and the whole came together as a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Of Mice and Men has frequently been the target of censorship due to the use of what some consider racist language.
But it is interesting that even Crooks, the black character played by Preston’s Des Grant, uses the offensive ‘N’ word to describe himself.