Tuesday, 28 March 2017

“The Grapes Of Wrath” by John Steinbeck
Nottingham Playhouse
Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, agricultural industry changes and bank foreclosures forcing tenant farmers out of work. Due to their nearly hopeless situation, and in part because they are trapped in the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California along Route 66. Along with thousands of other "Okies", they seek jobs, land, dignity, and a future.
The book itself caused great controversy when released and was banned in the Soviet Union and many libraries. Steinbeck received death threats and he was put under surveillance by the FBI and his books were ceremoniously burned in towns across America.
The title of the book, by the way, came from a line from “The Battle Hymn Of the Republic”. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord/He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored”.
Adapted by Frank Galati and directed by Abby Wright.
Andre Squire (Tom Joad) plays Ma and Pa’s favourite son, living for the moment and is a faithful and wise protector of the family, despite having killed a man, he gains the admiration of his family and his fellow workers. A good performance.
Ma Joad (Julia Swift), the mother. She happily fulfils her role as the mother of the family, healer, peacemaker and arbiter whose tasks grow as the story develops. Julia was one of the better actors here.
Pa Joad (Charlie Folorunsho) has been evicted from his farm and is forced to take his family to California. He depends more on Ma Joad as his shame of not being able to be the provider for his family grows.
Jim Casey (Brandon Charleson), is often the moral voice of the story. He’s a former preacher who goes to prison for Tom over a fight between the labourers and the Californian police.
Rose of Sharon (Molly Logan) is the eldest daughter of the Joad family whose husband Connie (Ben Bland)abandons her and she loses their child.
Grandpa Joad (Heronimo Sehmi) has an evil tongue and delights in letting it loose on his wife, Granma Joad (Pamela Merrick)
Al Joad (Shiv Jalota) is the family’s younger brother. 16 years old, he is cocky but is a useful mechanic who idolises Tom. He falls in love and decides to stay with her instead of travelling with his family.
Noah Joad (Daniel Booroff) is slow and feels that his parents don’t love him as much as his siblings.
Uncle John (Jim Kitson) still carries the regret of his lost wife which he feels was his fault.
Harry Napier plays an actor and musician in the play and Alexander Newland takes multi roles as Muley, Ma going back, the Narrator and one of the vocalists.He has a good singing voice.
So what did I think of this classic story that caused such controversy and upset?
I left the Playhouse feeling absolutely nothing at all. No emotions towards the play or any of the characters. I didn't know what the actors were supposed to make me feel but whatever it was, I felt nothing. If I had the book, and felt the same way, I'd burn it as well.
I'm sorry but nothing connected with me. I was bereft of emotion. I love Steinbeck's "Of Mice & Men" so it's not the writer. Maybe it was just too depressing for me, who knows.
The sound at times was muffled, even when mic'd up, but there were a few redeeming features that I must commend.
The accents were brilliant, a lot of work obviously put in by the actors and the dialect coach Tim Charrington.
The band, and the live music was fresh and exciting. The original music is composed by Musical Director Matt Regan.
The scene stealer for me, where I did perk up, was one of the saddest because it was where Rose of Sharon gave birth to her stillborn baby. There was no emotion shown by the family as the dead baby was unceremoniously dumped. A sad thing when this was a highlight.
The other highlight for me was spotting several local actors in the ensemble.I spotted at least half a dozen.
I know I'm not the only person there tonight who feels the same. Take the man in front of me who kept
nodding off to sleep during Act 2, or was that the pizza he had eaten during the show just making him feel sleepy? Made me hungry for a pizza, so at least I did feel something during the play.
As far as I could see there were no standing ovations, just polite applause, and people very quickly made their way to the exits.
One person made an exit half way through Act 1 and seemingly never returned to his original seat on the front row. he may have sat in one of the other vacant seats further back though.
Look, this is just my opinion, I didn't like the play, it left me emotionless. You may feel different, but for me these grapes were slightly sour.
“Grapes Of Wrath” is at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 8 April 2017.

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