Of Mice and Men/Americans/Wait until Dark

By Evans, Lloyd | The Spectator, November 15, 2003 | Go to article overview

Of Mice and Men/Americans/Wait until Dark


Evans, Lloyd, The Spectator


Theatre

Of Mice and Men Savoy Americans Arcola Wait Until Dark Ganick

Beware the pistol

I've witnessed several acts of brutality this week: an assassination, a knifing, half-a-dozen punch-ups and two murders. Some of it was mildly entertaining. First port of call on my bloody itinerary was the Savoy Theatre. This stunning essay in Art Deco is worth visiting for the dramatic silver facings of the proscenium arch and the sheer exhilaration of its visual atmosphere. The auditorium glows with a cool synthesis of ice-blues, soft yellows and lovely greys. The plush seats have been upholstered in crimson and gold, and their soft cushions receive the aching frame in a discreet and comforting embrace.

As I sat down I was looking forward to a sensory treat. And then the play started. My God. The play! Of Mice and? Men, adapted by John Steinbeck from his novel. What was he trying to achieve? A final draft or a sleeping draft? Novels and plays are such dissimilar artistic organisms that to transpose one into the medium of the other is to invite failure as surely as to cross a tadpole with a blue-bottle. Yup, I was watching a blue tad-bottle. An ugly, limping, lumbering creature doomed to a slow and pointless death.

The show stars Matthew Kelly, a gifted TV presenter whose features suggest intelligence, sensitivity and humour. He plays a pitiful half-wit who misunderstands everything and bursts into tears at the slightest provocation. His character becomes unendurable within minutes. He has a well-meaning pal, played by the excellent George Costigan, who can do nothing but fail in this vapid role. He talks non-stop and says absolutely nothing. Steinbeck's dramatic technique is static, discursive and quite devoid of tension or action. I sank obliviously into my scarlet throne and let the raucous shouting around my head meld into a single soothing blur, like the sea.

Just as I was nodding off, one of the characters produced a Luger. I sat up. He was polishing it carelessly, the barrel towards my face. Ever since that unfortunate mishap at The Duchess of Malfi a few years ago (actress, pistol, blood everywhere), no sane adult can endure having a stage-gun pointed at them, even for a few seconds. …

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