John Steinbeck‘s classic novel ‘The Grapes of Wrath‘ has come to the Nottingham Playhouse. If you know the book well, you will know it’s not the most uplifting of stories you can read, if you are not familiar with it you can guess that this adaptation is not a jolly affair from the haunting violin sounding music (played with a saw and bow) at the curtain up. 

The story centres around the Joad family affected by the Great Depression of 1930’s America, farmers are being evicted from their land, homes and livelihoods and the droughts have created a dust bowl that makes it nearly impossible to stay. The family make the decision to trek to California to seek a better life there before they too are evicted by the banks.
Tom Joad (André Squire) is the bolshy son who has just been released from prison, he arrives back home just in time to join his family on their travels. Ex-Preacher Casy (Brendan Charleson) remembers the family from his days as the local man of the cloth, he also tags along with the family to make their way across the country in search of a new life.

As they take their road trip they face many trials and tribulations, the loss of family members through death or just simple wandering free from family shackles. They start to realise that it may not all be full of fortune in California as they meet people camped in shanty towns, destroying their hopes and filling them with doubt.

The set was eerie, yellow and represented the dry, dusty, drought filled Oklahoma of the days. There were two large metal boxes that were used in many ways including as shadow boxes for effect. Haunting songs and music dotted throughout but not sure it fitted entirely.

I don’t think the story adapted well to stage, it was haunting and depressing which is what the book is, but the drips of modernism (a man appeared in a hoody and Umbro trainers?!) and the random sprinkles of music just left me feeling a little confused.

The actors were good at the characters they were portraying, particularly the matriarch of the Joad family played by Julia Swift (got to love a strong female lead). I just didn’t fully understand this adaptation – others might.

On until April 8th

Set 6/10

Performance 7/10

Story 4/10