Of Mice and Men, theatre review

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

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The Independent Culture

The most striking thing about this well-crafted adaptation of John Steinbeck’s exam staple comes with the addition of the music of Heather Christian.

Her sparse, anguished cries well evoke the sun-scorched isolation of the men who found themselves thrown together in back-breaking toil on the remote ranches of the Depression-era United States.

These were lonely and loveless times with existence and emotion pared down to the very barest of necessities – American Dreams blown away by the dust bowl winds.

New York-based Christian provides the only female voice in the play and the addition of her extraordinary brand of avant-garde Americana by new associate director Mark Rosenblatt, who spotted her in Mission Control at the National Theatre, brings welcome originality to his first production.

Rosenblatt has been cautiously sparing with her contributions in what is otherwise a garrulous play which includes considerable repetition from the plain-spoken men.

At times the accents wavered a little but the performances were none the less compelling - particularly Dyfrig Morris as Lennie whose inevitable descent into tragedy is poignantly portrayed.

Perhaps it goes a little far to suggest - as Rosenblatt does - that this is a play about zero-hours contracts and modern employment rights (or the lack of them).

But it does starkly illustrate the compromises needed to survive in a harsh, harsh world.

To 29 March