March 24, 2023
Of Mice and Men at Birmingham Rep review - it will stay with me forever
The audience laughed and cried with the characters on stage and they took to their feet for a standing ovation at the end of this triumphant play Sign up to our email newsletter for daily updates on what's happening in and around Birmingham We have more newsletters Heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure, Of Mice and Men tells the tale of Friends and migrant ranch workers George and Lennie who dream of earning enough money to buy a little piece of land of their own. Lennie has learning difficulties and tends to get them into trouble by failing to realise his own strength. The role was played by William Young, an Actor who has Agenesis of the Corpus Callosum (a brain disorder) and complex learning disabilities. He was incredible to watch, the absolute epitome of the Lennie I'd loved in the book. We are so blessed to have the Birmingham Rep in the heart of our city, with its drive to nurture new talent and create its own performances rather than just hosting touring shows. It's what makes the theatre unique. Iqbal Khan's production of John Steinbeck's novella is testament to that, proving the theatre's boldness in BREAKING boundaries, challenging stereotypes and testing new waters. Read more: West End's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is coming to Birmingham at Christmas It was a powerful statement with William Young saying he dedicated his role of Lennie to 'anyone with a learning disability who also loves performing but hasn't had the opportunity to land any professional roles .... yet.' Showcasing the brilliance of Young on a prestigious stage will hopefully open doors to other performers with disabilities, leading to greater inclusivity in the future. Tom MCall as George and Simon Darwen as Slim in the bunkhouse scene of Of Mice and Men at Birmingham Rep (Image: Ciaran Bagnall) His co-performers were just as enchanting to watch. Lee Ravitz's portrayal of old Candy, the dreamer whose elderly dog is shot, was utterly believable and I found his final soliloquy almost as heart-wrenching as the end of the play. Puppeteer Jake Benson's working of Candy's ancient mutt was fabulous. The puppet moved, spluttered and snored as if he were real. The story is a timeless classic that is as relevant today as it was back in 1937 when it was first written about the American dream, underlining the universal longing for a home to call one's own and the gasping, debilitating loneliness of never having the means to achieve it. It takes the 'wise fool' to help George and Candy actually start to believe that their dreams can actually come true only for these hopes to be shattered as George commits the ultimate act of human kindness for his beloved friend. Tom McCall was a triumph as George, giving the character a fatherly touch that made their companionship even more endearing. It is rare to see male friendship celebrated in books and on stage and this is what makes Of Mice and Men so special. All of the characters were utterly believable, with their complexities making them recognisable to us today - Reece Pantry's powerlessness and isolation as black stable hand Crooks, Maddy Hill's portrayal of Curley's wife so desperate for her own identity but never even given a name and Simon Darwen's calm kindness as Slim, a steady guide able to see beyond the eye of the storm. Listen to our Brummie Mummies podcasts about helping children with learning disabilities: The production was cleverly done, with just one set being adapted to go from the fabled brush in the foothills of Soledad to the ranch bunkhouse, Crook's secluded room, the ill-fated barn and back to the brush. I loved the music and the songs that ran through the performance, sung by the whole ensemble. The audience laughed and cried with the characters on stage - I could hear others sobbing around me as my eyes filled with tears - and they took to their feet for a standing ovation at the end. Of Mice and Men runs until Saturday April 8 at Birmingham Rep. Book tickets via The Rep website . Go see it if you can. I took my 13-year-old son and feel our lives are richer for the experience and that its powerful message will stay with us forever. Read more reviews and find out what's on via our City Life Facebook page and newsletter and by listening to our podcasts Read next: What it's really like to have autism - from a 10 year old boy Suede at Symphony Hall reviewed - 'I'd watch them again tomorrow in a heartbeat' Review: Steel Magnolias at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham is gorgeous Iconic West End production The Woman in Black is coming to Birmingham following its 33-year London run Frank Sinatra musical to premiere at Birmingham Rep - how to get tickets
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