So this week I (and a number of students) saw Of Mice and Men in my local cinema at a screening of a National Theatre Live production. I reviewed the book recently, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to review this stage version as well. I’ve never reviewed a stage production before, so fingers crossed that this goes well!
I just want to say how amazing the National Theatre live actually are. This production was from Broadway, New York. There was no way I was ever going to get there to see this. By having it recorded live, audience and all, then streamed back to my local area meant that we have golden opportunities on our door step to see amazing productions from around the world. Thank you!
Casting and characters:
George and Lennie were played by James Franco and Chris O’Dowd respectively. I found this casting to be brilliant. What incredibly talented actors these men are. As a lover of Chris O’Dowd I was already expecting amazing things. He didn’t fail to deliver. His every move, the twitches, the way he spoke and reacted was perfect for Lennie. I found myself unable to take my eyes off his hands. He was very much the bear like character Steinbeck created and described him to be.
James Franco as George was interesting for me. In the opening scene when they had ran from Weed to their next ranch I found George a little too angry. I had never read into his character as angry towards Lennie. Frustrated yes, angry no. At one point in this discussion Lennie was portrayed as being terrified, arms covering his head. It was uncomfortable to see – a sure sign of outstanding acting – getting an emotional response from your audience. However, when George was protecting Lennie I was completely sold. The emotions between them felt genuine and real. The looks between the two made me feel like no one else mattered. That protection was played to perfection.
The only let down in terms of the portrayal of characters for me was from Curley and his wife, played by Alex Morf and Leighton Meester respectively. Whilst I have no right or qualifications to judge their acting, and please don’t think I am, I expected more from the representation of them. Curley needs to be masculine and aggressive, constantly looking for a fight. I didn’t get that from this Curley. He never raised his voice or appeared to pose a threat. In fact, George appeared to have more aggression than Curley.
Curley’s Wife was every inch the character she portrayed: beautiful, lonely, awkward and talkative. Yet, something was missing. She failed to have that power behind her to stand up for herself. In Crook’s cabin, a crucial line I was sat waiting for never came. “Well, you keep your place then, Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.” The one time Curley’s Wife has power, and in this production she is stripped of it.
Nevertheless, I found casting generally brilliant. I had a view on each and every one of them. They brought the stage to life.
Image from the Independent.
Despite seeing this in a large cinema, I’ve probably never felt so claustrophobic in my life. I went hot and my palms started sweating. The setting was really rather incredible. The intense, cramped feel was brought to life with the corregated iron and prison camp beds. When all actors were on stage, I felt trapped with them. It was unnerving but excellently done. As well as this, the brush and the river brought Steinbeck’s description to life. It was probably one of the best stage settings I’ve ever seen. It embodied the dystopian feel of this period for men in America.
Image from backstage.com
If my memory serves me well, this adaptation stuck to Steinbeck’s original text well. I only missed a couple things. The first, as discussed above, the missing quote from Curley’s Wife. However, what was impressive, the main quotes we all know and remember were emphasised to show their significant meanings. When Lennie cries out “I don’t like this place, George. It ain’t no good place. I wanna get outa here” boy did I believe it. It’s true! I wanted to be out of that trapped, imprisoned setting too.
Secondly, I missed the emotion from Candy when his dog was killed. Yes he lay in silence, but the quote “I ought to of shot that dog myself, George. I shouldn’t ought to of let no stranger shoot my dog” was also missing. This quote draws parallels to the ending and it needs to be there. Whilst I felt awful for Candy, I knew that feeling came from me knowing the novel.
Nevertheless, it stayed true to the text. They explored the themes in depth and the portrayal of the novel was accurate throughout.
Image from ifccentre.com
Overall, I found this to be an inspiring, excellent and uncomfortable production. I felt like the men must have done on the ranches – utterly trapped and alone. I had to hold back tears in the final scene between Lennie and George. The tears from James Franco didn’t help there, but again they felt real and genuine.
Thank you National Theatre for bringing New York, and this incredible production to my door step. Magical!
Image from Google
Big love all xx