The landmark Steinbeck classic Of Mice and Men is currently touring the UK in a critically acclaimed production from Director Guy Unsworth
Never more timely in the current global landscape of unrest and mass migration, Of Mice and Men is set in the trying times of the Great Depression, when millions were forced to travel in search of a job and a future.
The challenging and controversial play brings to the stage a magical and imaginative story about holding on to your dreams and friendships during fiercely tough times and a faceless destiny. A tale which still resonates today when so many find themselves displaced in society.
This fresh and beautifully staged production draws inspiration from the epic scale of the Californian landscape emphasising the disparity between this vastness and constraints and limitations faced by the migrant workforce.
“Of Mice and Men is one of the great American stories that has stood the test of time,” says Director, Guy Unsworth, of the production, which plays Swansea Grand Theatre from April 16.
“It’s not only about the Great Depression in 1930s rural America but a timeless tale about loyalty and the struggles for survival in a cruel and competitive world. For me it is one of the most beautiful stories ever told – both heart-warming and breaking all at the same time.”
Guy feels the play has qualities that sets itself aside from others.
“The evocative detail of the surrounding nature in the story gives the play a kind of magical dreamlike quality,” he continues, “whilst there is a real richness to all of the characters. Steinbeck wrote the play himself, at the same time as writing the novella so you don’t lose any of these elements on stage. It never feels like an adaptation of a book, the same world is all there in the play.”
Of Mice And Men has been a long-time favourite of Guy Sigsworth,and a real joy for him to finally direct for the stage.
“I studied the book at school and loved it, so it’s always been on my bucket list – and from a director’s point of view it’s a dream job: It has a decent sized cast and a text that provides so many opportunities and questions to answer. So many people I mention the title to have a real fondness for it, so I’m really excited about bringing it back to the stage.”
“The storytelling within the text is so wonderful that I want to allow our imaginations to run wild with that, and with the numerous locations involved I want to serve it all up in a more poetic, theatrical way rather than something overly literal.”
“I feel there is a duality to the show too which I want to hold on to – on the one hand we’re telling a very intimate story between two characters but the sparse and spacious locations have an almost operatic feel at times – it’s a kind of majestic solitude I guess – and my challenge at the moment is to try and capture both of these elements.”
Although now regarded as a classic, Guy still feels the play carries a lot of relevance.
“I think Of Mice and Men is as loved now as it was 80 years ago when it was first published and performed, which says a lot for its relevance today. The ranch is owned by and employs predominantly white men: white men who are fit and healthy, and despite the hard times, they will all survive so long as they are considered ‘of use’.
“But a key set of characters are the outsiders: isolated by their race, gender, physical and mental disabilities. For a story ultimately about two very particular people and their relationship, there’s something all too familiar about the world they are in, and the behaviour we witness. We recognise it even if we can’t identify it exactly. The play still raises so many questions for us, for me that is what is so special.”
Of Mice and Men plays Swansea Grand Theatre from April 16 – 21. Visit http://www.swansea.gov.uk/swanseagrandtheatre or call 01792 475715 for booking details.