Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath suits adaptation well, with its strong story line and fascinating characters. Published in 1939, the famous film adaptation appeared a year later, and there’s even an opera which came out in 2007. The Tony Award winning play, however, first appeared in 1988, written by Frank Galati, and it’s a popular choice for schools – so in many ways it’s an ideal play for the Third Year Students to grapple with.
Back in 2019, I saw a production of Macbeth at the Chichester Festival Theatre; well, I half-saw it. During the first act, one of the cast members accidentally smashed the glass floor of the stage (perhaps an unnecessarily fragile item of set design!) and the second act had to be cancelled. Blow me down, but at the end of the first act of what was proving to be a most enjoyable production of Grapes of Wrath, the elegant fire curtain of the Royal Theatre thundered down with an almighty clunk and, try as they might, the backstage team couldn’t get it back on its runners and they couldn’t raise the curtain for the second act! So the rest of the show was cancelled. Why is it always the good shows where this happens?
I feel particularly sorry for the cast who have obviously put in a tremendous amount of work to make this production a success, and with only three performances scheduled, it really reduces the chance of their work being seen.
That said, I can report that there were some terrific performances taking place; none more so than Connor Dadge as the central character, Tom Joad, who carries the story along effortlessly, is hugely believable in the role and has a superbly charismatic stage presence, without ever having to force the performance too hard – a true natural. Also dominating the first part of the proceedings is Achanti Palmer playing the ex-preacher Jim Casy, with a fine singing voice and a characterisation full of hidden depths – another very watchable performance. Kain Walden is excellent as Pa Joad, a tough, ruthless but loving father; as is Meg Mayers as Ma, whose weary indomitability was really starting to shine through when the show had to finish early. But all the cast were putting in a tremendous ensemble performance, and it was really shaping up to be a first rate show.
These things happen!
P. S. The Martin Lawrence Acting Awards are presented every year to the best Actress and Actor. My choice for Best Actor for the year would be Connor Dadge.