Review: Of Mice And Men (Sport For Jove Theatre)

sportforjove2Venue: Seymour Centre (Chippendale NSW), Jul 9 – Aug 1, 2015
Playwright: John Steinbeck
Director: Iain Sinclair
Cast: Andre de Vanny, Andrew Henry, Anna Houston, Anthony Gooley, Charles Allen, Christopher Stollery, John McNeill, Laurence Coy, Terry Serio, Tom Stokes
Image by Marnya Rothe

Theatre review
Lennie’s intellectual disability in Of Mice And Men reveals the forgotten innocence inherent in all of humanity. His experience of the world is one that everyone can identify with, but the virtuous purity that he exemplifies is utterly absent from our daily adult lives. Unlike Lennie, we have grown too complicated and are often dishonest in the way we treat one another and ourselves. Few of us can remain idealists, and even though John Steinbeck’s play inspires the longing for a simpler and truer existence, the inevitability of its demise is also exposed. We question the corruptness that we allow in, and meditate upon the dynamics in our communities that instigate these unfortunate states of affairs. Most people are good, but when we come together, bad situations easily arise. Of Mice And Men looks at a group of men, bound by poverty and by dreams, and their journey towards a calamitous fate.

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. Sinclair’s consummate control of atmospherics delivers a transportative pleasure that pulls us into the emotions and actions of characters that are a world away from our current realities. Each personality is conveyed with compelling idiosyncrasy, and chemistry between every actor in every scene is calibrated just right, so that stories and events are convincing and splendidly detailed.

The cast is uniformly strong, with a sense of egalitarianism in the ensemble that supports the play’s themes of camaraderie and community. Andrew Henry is sensitive, tender, and unquestionably touching as Lennie. His work is performative but also heartfelt, so that the audience’s engagement with his creation is much more than skin deep. Instead of applying a basic treatment to a simple character, Henry’s approach is meticulously inventive and the results are as entertaining as they are moving. The other leading man of the piece is Anthony Gooley, who fills the stage with charisma and a magnetic energy that is impressively dramatic. In the role of George, his empathy for Lennie is depicted powerfully, which is key to the plot’s effectiveness, but the final scene requires greater pathos from the actor for a more explosive conclusion. Charles Allen and Laurence Coy play smaller roles but are individually captivating. They generate theatrical magic with deeply nuanced interpretations of identity and sentimentality, both enthralling in their moments of eminence.

Classics resonate through the years because they encapsulate something true and universal that time is unable to diminish. Of Mice And Men represents our belief in justice, and the right of all persons to seek improvements for their circumstances. It appeals to our need to define right and wrong, and that desire to understand the differences between. Most of all, it serves as a reminder that we should strive to be better people, and to avoid the complacent and inferior, even if it requires going against every tide.