Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, adapted by Donna Franceschild

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BBC Radio 4, 7 March 2010
Kirsty Williams' enthralling production focused on the relationship between George (David Tennant) and Lennie (Liam Brennan). At first they resembled a double-act - brains and brawn - as they wandered about the wastes of Southern California in search of work. While Lennie dreamed of the time when he would have a farm to keep rabbits, George concerned himself with more practical affairs, such as where the next meal would come from. As the production unfolded, however, we understood how George, in spite of his supposed concern for Lennie's welfare, was consumed with self-interest; as a result, Lennie was placed in situations that he simply could not handle, such as being seduced by the boss' Curley's wife (Melody Grove). The results were predictable: Lennie broke the girl's neck, and became a fugitive from the law. Eventually George put his unfortunate companion out of his misery by shooting him dead, even while promising Lennie that the dream of owning a farm would soon become a reality. At no point, however, did George acknowledge any responsibility for the catastrophe; as a result, he seemed a profoundly unsympathetic character (despite being portrayed by David Tennant, hitherto associated with more heroic roles such as Hamlet on stage, or Doctor Who on television).
The action unfolded at a stately pace; little actually happened (save for Lennie's breaking of Curley's wife's neck), but was rather reported direct to listeners through speeches. This was a clever strategy on director Williams' part, suggesting the undercurrent of violence lurking beneath every speech. Although the workers tried their best to live in harmony with one another, their plight was so desperate that they could not help but think of resorting to fisticuffs. By such means Williams underlined the social message of Steinbeck's work: Lennie might deserve our sympathy, but in truth he is just a representative example of the thousands of men who struggled to survive on peanuts during the Depression, finding work as and when they could, but more often than not going hungry. Steinbeck would explore this issue more fully in The Grapes of Wrath; in Of Mice and Men he seems more interested in the plight of his two central protagonists. In spite of their dreams, they have to survive in a dog-eat-dog world, where the fittest emerge triumphant and noble savages such as Lennie are destroyed.