Theatre reviews: Of Mice and Men and Swan Lake

The West Yorkshire Playhouse production of Of Mice and Men
The West Yorkshire Playhouse production of Of Mice and Men
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Of Mice and Men, West Yorkshire Playhouse, by Nick Ahad ***

The fact that so many young people were at the opening of this new production of Steinbeck’s play is testament to the longevity of such a powerful story.

A tale of itinerant men trawling the plains searching for the American dream in the face of a nightmarish vast landscape has a power that has lasted almost a century.

Lennie is big, hard-working and an innocent at large. His smaller, smarter companion and protector George and he travel the land, taking work where they can find it.

While it tells the tale of two men searching for their place in a harsh Depression-era America, the story of desperate people kept alive by the slender thread of hope resonates in Britain 2014.

The first thing to say about the production, a first from the Playhouse’s associate director Mark Rosenblatt, is that it looks beautiful. The evocation of a time and place is stunningly created by designer Max Jones.

A second is the haunting soundscape created by Heather Christian and a third element is the heart wrenching beauty of the performance of Dyfrig Morris as Lennie.

Almost everyone around him is very good – he is stunning. Unfortunately his character’s partner George is played almost at a single note by Henry Pettigrew.

He enters annoyed at his friend and partner and remains that way for most of the time. In the final, utterly heart-breaking scene, Pettigrew comes good, although his performance has not earned the denouement – that is entirely down to Steinbeck.

• To March 29.

Swan Lake, Bradford Alhambra, by Stephanie Ferguson *****

Standing ovation. Packed house. Matthew Bourne’s swan boys are back in town, heaving with testosterone with their rippling muscles and feathery legs. It’s almost twenty years since Bourne did the unthinkable and created a male corps de ballet for the ultimate Tchaikovsky classic. In the beginning people walked out, scandalised by the lack of tutus. Since then the production has become a giant global success.

With Lez Brotherston’s brilliantly inventive sets and a rolling cast it’s been modified over the years but it’s still breathtaking. Wittily observed, with moments of genius choreographically, Bourne mirrors the body language of the original and creates his distinctive own.

These guys are not fluttery maidens trapped in the bodies of birds. They’re strutting, aggressive males who can kill with a beat of their wings.