This upcoming performance of Frank Galati’s award-wining adaptation of Steinbeck’s immortal 1939 Depression novel, directed by Jonathan Church, hardly requires a strained forehead to figure out it’s relevance for today. But the story of the Joad family’s cross-country trip from a barren Oklahoma to the alleged greener pastures of California and it’s reflection of our own attempts to climb out of financial woe carries with it a prescient observation one hopes connects with the audience; that financial disasters and inequalities are inherent in a free-market economic. In the role of ex-preacher Jim Casy, who accompanies the Joad family on the road, Oliver Cotton, something of a Steinbeck enthusiast, is well aware of the respected author’s political agenda: ‘Certainly at the time of writing The Grapes of Wrath,’ says Cotton, ‘Steinbeck believed in Communism and in Soviet Russia.’
Take another look at the book, or John Ford’s critically adored film adaptation, and a less obvious parallel between it and today emerges, one that Casualty actress Sorcha Cusack, playing Ma Joad, picks up on: ‘The Joads had to move, otherwise they would have faced starvation. The land was worn-out through over-cultivation: there was nothing left. In writing about the way we exploit everything until there’s nothing left, Steinbeck was being extremely prophetic.’ Indeed, the play not only manages to explore two of the most important issues of today, the economy and the environment, it also manages to connect them: both can only be safely controlled through cooperative and collective efforts. Not until we see evidence of this in our infrastructure should we tire of Steinbeck; this chance to engage with the great writer on our stages promises a thoughtful evening.
Playing @ King’s Theatre Edinburgh from Tue 13 Oct – Sat 17 Oct
Opening night/matinees £12.50 – £21.00 / Eves £14.50 – £25.00 (concessions available)
See here for student deals