On Wednesday, March the 3rd; Roedean Schools LV English class took a trip to Eastbourne, Devonshire park Theatre, to watch a fantastic performance of ‘Mice and Men’. There was a large cast but it was clear to see that George and Lennie were the most impressive and prominent on stage. Thus I have chosen to study them, as I was most impressed by their mannerisms and appearance on stage.
I have learnt that John Steinbeck, the author of this novel, is a very skilful creator of characters.
It seems to me that his technique is to give a brief preliminary description of the character, and then to let the character convey his own personality to the reader by means of what he does, and more significantly by his speech and mannerisms. After reading the play I had my own idea of what George and Lennie were like, and the performance I saw seemed to have the same ideas, which is what particularly appealed to me.
I felt that Lennie’s appearance really matched his character. From the story itself, we can see that he is in effect, a young child in a large man’s body. Matthew Kelly elaborated on Steinbeck’s sketchy outline of Lennie’s character. Lennie’s size, shaved head, messy beard and clothes all added to his appearance. The fact that his clothes were hanging off his body, emphasised his massiveness, awkwardness and inattention to detail. From the way Lennie held himself, with his shoulders sloping, his heavy walk with his feet dragging a little and his arms that hung loosely at his sides, one can tell that he was an introvert and insecure character. His omnipresent hovering near George served to further reinforce this impression.
However, I was quite unimpressed by George’s appearance and style, because I felt as though he didn’t add any of his own touches. His clothes were functional and thus believable but not very noteworthy. He was suitably small (his physical appearance echoing his social) with defined, sharp features, which gave him a confident but slightly aggressive look. His delivery also left a lot to be desired. I felt that his vocal range was too ‘shouty’, thus leaving little scope for expression of true anger / frustration when needed. As well as being un-dynamic, the overall effect was rather tedious for the audience. In contrast, Matthew Kelly varied his lines well, according to the demands of the script.
I found the appearance of the set very effective and beautiful. I loved the way they had the little pond in the first scene, and the way sets slid on and off. The set changed quite often, but I noticed that George and Lennie always remained constant in appearance, which I thought enhanced the effect of limited options for the two men.
As mentioned above, I found Lennie’s mannerisms very effective. His constant twitching, which sped up whenever he got nervous or scared, was a convincing touch. His twisted facial expressions showed that he was a mentally ill man, and his shuffling gait made it clear that he felt out of place in his surroundings. However, I did feel that some of Lennie’s ways and reactions were somewhat overdone and so lost a little of their impact. In one scene they ate dinner together and Lennie was shovelling the beans into his mouth, and spilling them all around. Which is theoretically believable but Lennie’s acting just amused the audience and didn’t get a positive, sympathetic reaction from them, as he wasn’t convincing enough.
George too had some notably successful mannerisms, besides the fact that he was confident. George had a suitably aggressive persona, he got both angry and defensive at the right times, without exaggerating. At the beginning of the play his character was weak, but as the story built, so did his character. I thought this was a good technique as it emphasised the climax in the story.
George and Lennie’s relationship was another remarkable yet moving feature of this play. They helped support each other, and make things clear for the audience through their acting. It seemed as though George felt a sense of duty and responsibility towards Lennie, as we see him get angry about the things Lennie does but is unable to leave him. Lennie needs George, and would be lost without him, but it is equally true to say that George needs Lennie. George too craves companionship that will stave off the horrors of loneliness. I felt as though this need was evident in their body language and the way in which they dealt with each other. The words, “…because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you’, enforced this even further.
Overall the whole cast was good, but I felt as though George and Lennie were better than average. I think their relationship was very important, because it actually gave both actors some one to rely on, and a constant companion. Lennie acted his part very well, though he was a bit on the creepy side- and seemed unreal at times. George however, maintained his character all through the play. He got even more involved it at the end, when he had to kill Lennie, in order to save him. This dramatic climax was effective and reached the audience in a meaningful way.