JOHN Steinbeck’s Depression-era classic may have returned to the King’s with a fresh look and a new cast, but a familiar sense of foreboding still permeates the aisles as the drama unfolds under Roxana Silbert’s direction.
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King’s Theatre, Leven Street
For those who somehow avoided picking up a copy of the play during high school, the scene is set in the dusty fields of rural California as two out-of-work labourers, George Milton (William Rodell) and Lennie Small (Kristian Phillips), lie low following a small town skirmish which saw the mentally-challenged Lennie narrowly avoid a lynching.
As the pair arrive at a new ranch, keen to work but even keener to stay out of trouble, fate puts obstacles in their path, not least the ranch owner’s son, Curly (Ben Stott), and his alluring young wife (Saoirse-Monica Jackson).
Designer Liz Ascroft’s impressive set dominates proceedings, scarred through the centre with a jagged fault line that may or may not represent the inner workings of Lennie’s childlike mind, offering the actors a suitably down-and-dirty backdrop that evokes the run-down farm on which they are trapped.
Though the two leads don’t fully convince as two old friends bound together by a need to survive, Rodell impresses as an exhausted man trying to stay one step ahead of tragedy, while Phillips works hard to avoid becoming a stereotypical manchild.
Veteran Dudley Sutton, as Candy, adds a lightness that brings welcome laughs to proceedings. Elsewhere, there’s strong support from Dave Fishley as Crooks and Saoirse-Monica Jackson is also worthy of praise.
Run ends Saturday