Review: Of Mice and Men

Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre's production of is an evocative production with emotional punch.

David Ferry and Gary Farmer star in Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre's production of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men at the McPherson Playhouse.

David Ferry and Gary Farmer star in Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre's production of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men at the McPherson Playhouse.

Having your writing end up on every high school syllabus is a dubious honour. On the one hand, your place in literary history is assured. On the other, your work risks death by overexposure. John Steinbeck is one of these writers. Force fed to everyone in high school, the Californian master is too easily overlooked. But then, sitting in the McPherson Playhouse on a balmy evening last week, you’re hit with this: “Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”

Like his other works, Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is run through with casually arresting truths. These philosophical underpinnings, coupled with his marvelous gift for dramatic pacing and dialogue make his books perfect fodder for the stage.

Armed with this bounty, Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre has created an evocative production with real emotional punch. Director Brian Richmond tells the story of Lennie and George with an unwavering compassion. Despite its status as an instant classic, Of Mice and Men has attracted considerable controversy since its publication in 1937. It has been banned repeatedly in American schools because of its racial slurs and for allegedly condoning euthanasia. But even in our politically-minded age, Richmond stays admirably true to the text. During the interval, I overheard a couple of theatre-goers remarking on their difficulty with the offensive language (despite enjoying the production). It’s a relief that Richmond cleaves to authenticity, rather than catering to our modern sensitivities.

In the pivotal role of Lennie, Gary Farmer delivers a naïve joy and tenderness, the perfect counterpoint to the fearsome physicality that is so central to the character. As he blunders around the stage, a child in a man’s body, we feel compelled to protect him — from the brutality of the society around him, but also from himself.

As his offsider George, David Ferry is a blustering dynamo, desperate for a break and scared to indulge in the dreams he’s sculpted for his friend. Of Mice and Men is about prejudice and hardship, but at its core is a story of male friendship and the importance of these understated bonds. Ferry and Farmer give us a wonderfully genuine portrayal of an unlikely but thoroughly believable friendship.

Their supporting actors are uniformly terrific. In the pivotal role of Curley’s wife, Samantha Richard is two parts Vivien Leigh, one part Kirsten Dunst; her voice struggles to fill the theatre but she’s saucy enough to get away with it.

Ian Rye’s set is a wondrous thing. Giant wooden beams evoke houses, while sparsely furnished rooms feature authentic period fittings. You can almost smell the manure outside Carlson’s (played by the excellent Michael Armstrong) room. For the most part, Rye’s sets sit comfortably unnoticed — this is a play that lives and dies on its dialogue, but at the climax of the play his artistry is effectively thrust front and centre.

To stage a play about hard times in the United States is certainly timely, but then Steinbeck’s themes always seem remarkably relevant. This production is a real joy — as evidenced by the standing ovation on opening night. Go and see it and then go and read the book again — damn, read all of them! He’s just that good. M


Of Mice and Men is playing at the McPherson Playhouse until Sun., July 15.

Tickets at



By Varnya Bromilow


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Tomo Vranjes, a Greater Victoria musician and longtime fan of late rock guitar icon Eddie Van Halen, joins artist Paul Archer behind the latter’s Fort Street gallery. Archer, whose airbrushed paintings of rock greats have made him many connections in recent years, painted a likeness of Van Halen following the guitarist’s death last month from cancer. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)
Victoria artist’s king-sized tribute to Eddie Van Halen draws on personal connection

Paul Archer had an up close and personal day with the legendary guitarist in 1980

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

A sample of some of Lou-ann Neel’s jewelry.
Lou-ann Neel wins the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art

Originally from Alert Bay, Neel’s family is steeped in renowned Kwakwaka’wakw artists

I-Hos Gallery manager Ramona Johnson shows some of the paddles available at the retail outlet. Photo by Terry Farrell
I-Hos Gallery celebrates 25 years of promoting First Nation artwork

K’ómoks First Nation-based outlet has art from all over the country

Bard to Broadway Theatre Society may stage shows outdoors next summer. (PQB News photo file)
Qualicum Beach’s Bard to Broadway group may stage shows outdoors

Theatre society plans smaller productions due to ongoing pandemic

A new short film festival called MORVENFEST is encouraging B.C. secondary students to step into the world of film during their Christmas break. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
New film festival gives Victoria students exciting opportunity

MORVENFEST is open to all B.C. secondary students over Christmas break

Port Alberni author Diane Dobson has put together a collection of childhood memories, with proceeds going towards the Ty Watson House. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni writer looks through the eyes of a child

Book raises funds for the Alberni Valley Hospice Society

Most Read