What with house moving and illnesses and so on it’s been a good while since Ant and I have made it to the theatre, which is a huge shame since it’s one of our favourite things to do together. With that in mind, for Ant’s birthday last week I booked us tickets for Of Mice and Men, West Yorkshire Playhouse’s latest.
I always have high expectations at the Playhouse, just because I’ve seen so many outstanding productions there. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Mary Shelley, Loserville, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Annie….all absolutely top notch. Of Mice and Men absolutely lived up to my expectations, and then some.
The story follows George and Lennie, two itinerant ranch workers and close friends, as they start a new job. Their friendship is the focus of the play; Lennie worships George and George protects Lennie from those who don’t understand him.
The staging is gorgeous as always. Standing water at the front of the stage adds a dank, closed in feeling but as soon as the hundreds of lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling light up, that’s forgotten and you’re out beneath the stars in the wide open fields.
There’s such an oppressive atmosphere for much of the play, and the music is largely responsible. Heather Christian is musical director, composer and performer, and her Americana style adds so much to the mood of the play.
There’s not a weak link in the cast. Every performance is absorbing, and despite the large amounts of dialogue, you don’t lose interest for a second. It just means the well timed silences are all the more tense and even harrowing, when they come, to help propel you toward the inevitable but horrendous crescendo. The sense of a rush towards the finale is overwhelming, and the interval was agonising. I wanted to be immersed in the play again, but I didn’t want to see what I knew I would have to see.
This has flown straight into my top 3 of the Playhouse’s productions. Bloody brilliant night out, incredibly moving and never boring.