Of Mice and Men (2015)
Directed by Iain Sinclair
Written by John Steinbeck
July 9, 2015 to August 8, 2015
WINNER 2015 Sydney Theatre Critics Award for Best Production, Best Direction and Best Stage Design.
In July, Sport For Jove presents Of Mice and Men, adapted by John Steinbeck from his extraordinary novel, it remains a stunning indictment, particularly in today’s era of economic, political and moral disillusionment, of how we treat our disenfranchised fringe dwellers, our migrant peoples and our most vulnerable. Set in the desperation of the Great Depression, Of Mice and Men is one of the world’s most compelling tales of friendship and survival. George and Lenny are displaced migrant workers who dream of one day settling down on their own piece of land. Their shared vision of a better future and the strength of their friendship carry them through the loneliness, oppression and uncertainty of one of the world’s most profound eras of disillusionment. Of Mice and Men teaches us the value of understanding and human kindness even under extreme circumstances.
Like most of us I first encountered John Steinbeck at school. In one year I was also introduced to George Orwell, Arthur Miller and J.D Salinger and it set me on a path.
Steinbeck’s tough and deeply humane tale hooked me hard when I was 14 even though I was probably too young to appreciate the central mechanism of the novel. I had very few plans, they weren’t best laid and none of them had gone awry. At the time I was compelled by the deep friendship of Lennie and George, two men almost randomly thrown together yet so bound to each other that the whole universe of the story is destroyed the moment they are pulled apart. I remember sitting on my own bunk bed after finishing the book and it was if I was holding something spent of its words, as if I could open it again and it would be just blank pages. As much as I was drawn by this extraordinary incongruous friendship I was also deeply moved by Steinbeck’s respectful and close portraiture of loneliness. I knew what loneliness was by then, sat on that bunk bed in a boarding school, my family in another country altogether I had just enough insight to appreciate Steinbeck’s lean eloquent and respectful genius.
Revisiting this dearly loved childhood text now I’m struck by its adultness. I see Steinbeck’s close simple observation open up universes of human need. It is true: The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, as we get older we feel this in deeper and darker ways. We reach for our dreams in a way that exposes us to the cruelty of only realising them briefly. It’s a cruel story but it makes you cling ever more tightly to the consolation of your dreams.
When Slim says to George that it seems to him “maybe everybody in the whole damn world is scared of each other” I wonder how far we have evolved from the depression, when economic hardship made us fearful and untrusting of migrants, of how ‘tightening our belts’ impacts those most exposed to hardship and how economic austerity pulls us away from kindness and toward something less admirable.
Again Slim has the words for it: “I’ve seen ‘em get mean”.
I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of spirit that Sport for Jove injects into theatre and humbled by the depth of investment the actors have have made in this production and I'm very fortunate to have revisited a work that put me on the path I find myself on still.
"This production, directed by Iain Sinclair, is a near flawless rendering of Steinbeck’s 78 year-old text. Beautifully realised by a brilliant design team (Michael Hankin is production designer, with Nate Edmondson on sound, and lights by Sian James-Holland ), the show feels rich with authenticity and provides our senses with a satisfying approximation of how Northern America must have been at the Great Depression."
"Iain Sinclair’s direction elevated this classic script to unusual heights, the use of naturally occurring sound in the background created atmosphere, and the audience’s commitment was palpable. I heard sighs and gasps at all the right times."
"Opening night's audience responded to the piece with its twists and mood and power with indrawn breaths and utterly solid applause for this version of Steinbeck's small modern tragedy."
"...the production keeps you gripped throughout. As it moves to its shattering conclusion you can feel people holding their breath. On the night I saw it there was a long silence at the end – a mark, I think, of how deeply affected people were."
Photography by Marnya Rothe
Andre de Vanny | Curley
Andrew Henry | Lennie
Anna Houston | Curley's Wife
Anthony Gooley | George
Charles Allen | Crooks
Christopher Stollery | Slim
John McNeill | Carlson
Laurence Coy | Candy
Terry Serio | The Boss
Tom Stokes | Whit
Blake Feltis | Assistant Stage Manager
Georgia Hopkins | Assistant Costume Designer
Iain Sinclair | Director
Jen Gardner | Assistant Director
Michael Hankin | Designer
Michelle McKenzie | Stage Manager
Nate Edmondson | Sound Designer
Rosalind Bunting | Scenic Artist
Scott Witt | Fight Choreography/Movement
Sian James-Holland | Lighting Designer
Terry Serio | Music Composition