Directed by Ian Sinclair
A Sport For Jove Theatre Company and Seymour Centre Co-production
The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre to 8 August 2015
Review by Len Power 6 August 2015
Having already read the book and seen two stage productions, an opera and two movies of this extraordinary work, it could have been expected there would be nothing left to move me in Ian Sinclair’s new production. On the contrary, I found myself carried away by the story as if it was totally new.
John Steinbeck’s tough tale of an unusual companionship during the Great Depression involves George and his friend, the mentally challenged Lenny, roaming through farming areas picking up what work they can while enduring hardship and oppression. They share a dream of one day owning their own piece of land and creating a better future for themselves.
Ian Sinclair has produced a strong, uncompromising production that presents a very real impression of the era. His cast are particularly well-chosen. The men all look like they’ve known tough times and the individual characters are brilliantly acted with great depth and feeling.
Andrew Henry gives a heart-breaking performance as the child-like Lenny and Anthony Gooley is superb as the restrained, frustrated but deeply caring George, Lenny’s friend and minder. Charles Allen makes us feel the loneliness and bitterness of a black worker who is segregated from the bunkhouse shared by the white men. Anna Houston as the wife of one of the men nicely captures the frustration of a woman disappointed in marriage and isolated from a life she yearns for. There are excellent character studies by the rest of the cast – Christopher Stollery, John McNeill, Laurence Coy, Tom Stokes, Andre de Vanny and Terry Serio, who also plays the haunting music in the show.
Michael Hankin has designed a stark but atmospheric set with a sawdust floor that you can smell as you enter the theatre. Lighting designed by Sian James-Holland adds greatly to the atmosphere as does the sound design of Nate Edmondson. Costumes in this production have been especially well chosen by Michael Hankin and Assistant Designer, Georgia Hopkins.
This is a play that never dates. The themes of oppression of displaced people during hard times and the importance of friendship and human spirit are just as relevant today as they were in the era where the play is set. If you know this story, you’ll enjoy revisiting it. If you’ve never read or seen it, don’t miss this opportunity to undergo a profound experience.