Theatre reviews: Of Mice and Men, Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Aye, Elvis, Oran Mor, Glasgow

A man can dream, can't he? And so can a woman; but the dreams of ordinary working people are often edged with poignancy, as they struggle to hang on to hope in tough economic times. John Steinbeck's great 1937 novella and play Of Mice And Men is perhaps the most profound and tragic story ever written on this theme; and in this new touring production from Selladoor Worldwide, Richard Keightley and Matthew Wynn deliver a beautiful pair of performances as two migrant farm workers on the road in the California of the Great Depression.
Richard Keightley and Matthew Wynn deliver beautiful performances in Of Mice And MenRichard Keightley and Matthew Wynn deliver beautiful performances in Of Mice And Men
Richard Keightley and Matthew Wynn deliver beautiful performances in Of Mice And Men

Of Mice And Men ****

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Aye, Elvis ****

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Raised in the same small town, ordinary working guy George and his friend Lennie - a big, simple and tremendously strong young man of limited intelligence - are bound together by ties of responsibility and community; but in a society reduced to a rough individual survival ethic, the bond between the two men is itself seen as suspicious, and their shared dream of getting a little place together worthy only of contempt, or bitter resentment and envy.

Guy Unsworth’s production unfolds on a wide stage, with design and lighting by David Woodhead and Bretta Gerecke that seems both familiar in its simple evocations of barn and riverside, and exceptional in its economy and beauty. And in the end, ironically, it’s the even less realistic dream of Hollywood stardom cherished by the child-like wife of the farmer’s son, Curly, that leads Lennie and George into tragedy; as the community turns on a big, helpless man whose essential sweetness of heart it cannot begin to comprehend.

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There are dreams of stardom, too, in this week’s Play, Pie And Pint show at Oran Mor, written in strong contemporary Doric by Morna Young, and directed by Ken Alexander. Here, though, it’s not fame and fortune that interests our central character, Joan, so much as a mystical communion with The King, whose music she has learned to love through karaoke sessions at the local pub. Doomed to a fairly grim life as a low-paid shop worker and carer to her disabled mum, Joan begins to do Elvis impersonations, singing jaunty Doric versions of standards from Dinna Be Cruel to Are Ye Lonesome The Nicht; she also acquires a second-hand laptop and an Elvis suit, and dreams of doing well when a national Elvis competition visits Aberdeen.

Her new online life in Elvis chatrooms annoys the hell out of her mother, though, left watching the soaps alone downstairs. And by the time Joyce Falconer’s beautiful and touching performance as Joan - with superb light-touch support from Karen Ramsay as Mum and David McGowan as local d-j Fat Bob - reaches its inevitable anti-climax, the audience is thoroughly in love with Morna Young’s gruff and vulnerable heroine; and her story of how dreams can sometimes improve your life in unexpected ways, even when they don’t come true.

Both shows run until 3 March