Our Quarry theatre will be transformed into a dusty Depression Era landscape from 11-27 May with our deeply affecting new co-production of John Steinbeck’s classic Of Mice and Men.
Directed by Birmingham Rep Associate Director and Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony director Iqbal Khan, the drama tells the story of a friendship between two men – Lennie, who is a looming physical presence with the mind-set of a child, and George, his ally and protector.
Set during the Great Depression, this story of enduring friendship against the disintegration of the American dream is a Leeds Playhouse, Birmingham Rep & Fiery Angel co-production.
Tom McCall, who plays George, wasn’t previously familiar with the story but knew this was the perfect part for him.
“The relationship between Lennie and George is brotherly but it’s parental as well and, having recently become a father, this made me really want the part. George’s fierce protection of Lennie and his unwavering support are not easy – much like being a parent.
“What I like about George is his care and his love as well as his fierce wit and his speed of thought. He has an ability to become who he needs to be in this hard, hard world of the play. He has a dream and he has hopes and aspirations, and I think part of the tragedy about George is he’s constantly putting a lid on that because he’s scared.”
Tom has performed in a host of Royal Shakespeare Company productions and sees parallels between some of those roles and George.
“George is one of the great parts, it’s up there with anything that Arthur Miller has written and all of Shakespeare’s biggies. I’m blown away by this part.”
For Wiliam Young, playing Lennie is like meeting up with an old friend as he also took the role in August012’s production in Cardiff in 2017.
“There’s a child-like quality to Lennie which has been interesting to explore. For a big guy he’s like a little baby, he has a real innocence and he loves animals so he’s always petting something, which drives George mad.
“Lennie gets into trouble easily but that is part of his childish charm. George says he’s ‘like a kid with no harm in him except he’s strong’ and that gives you a clue on his mentality state which is what makes him so tragic – he’s a big guy but with the mind of a five-year-old. But there’s just something about Lennie that makes you smile.”
Wiliam was born with agenesis of the corpus callosum and has complex learning difficulties – which he believes has helped him empathise with his character.
“I think getting into Lennie’s mindset is easier having a similar condition to what Lennie probably has, although his is undiagnosed. It’s difficult for somebody with autism or ACC to express their feelings and get stuff out and they need more time to process, all like Lennie.
“Working with Iqqy [Iqbal Khan] has been an experience because he listens and lets you play with ideas if you have them to see if they work. I thought it was natural for Lennie, when he got upset, to start rocking and then, when George really lays into him, gets worse and worse. George then puts his hand on Lennie’s chest to regulate his breathing again – to show his love for him.”
The Of Mice and Men company has a lot of lived experience, including three actors with disabilities bringing new insight to their characters.
“This is a play about people striving for their place in the world, literally and figuratively,” said Tom. “For George and Lennie, they’re striving for a home and for some of the other characters they’re striving for a community. The show is about all these displaced people who are trying to find their place, which sings to today big time.”
Tom McCall in Of Mice and Men
Wiliam Young in Of Mice and Men. (Photographs by Kris Askey)
Tom McCall as George and Wiliam Young as Lennie