John Steinbeck’s classic novel is brought to life in an adaptation by Birmingham Repertory Theatre in association with The Touring Consortium Theatre Company, showing at the Grand Theatre this week.
The story of two labourers, George and Lenny travelling across the country to find work, and with a dream of owning their own land is a standard across many school English syllabus and this is a production that plays well to this school group audience, with simple staging and clear characterisation throughout.
There are strong performances across the cast. William Rodell grows steadily into the role of George as the story develops, appearing more comfortable in role in the later scenes. Kristian Phillips gives an endearing performance as Lenny, drawing just the right balance of laughter and gasps of empathy from the audience. Together the two create a strong partnership from the outset.
There are excellent supporting performances from Jonah Russell (Slim), Ben Stott (Curly) and Dudley Sutton (Candy), ably assisted by the near show-stealing Tilly the Dog; while Dave Fishley makes a great impression in the smaller role of Crooks.
There are a few clumsy moments where the dialogue is a little laboured and the pace of the action is uncomfortably slow. Disappointingly, the clever visible scene changes, staging and cast-led sound effects which kick-start the production at the beginning, setting the scene well and really aiding the flow of the piece, give way to traditional scene changes in blackouts as the production develops. More consistency in this would just add a final touch to bring everything together as the show builds towards its touching final scenes.
However, in a theatre that was sadly plagued with noise in the first half (rustling sweet wrappers, mobile phones, chatting and more) this is a production that managed to turn a restless audience into one who in the final scenes were holding their breath in suspense as the final curtain fell.
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.