The Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath
By John Steinbeck. Adapted by Frank Galati. Canberra REP, directed by Chris Baldock. Canberra REP Theatre. 13–29 February 2020.

Using an amazing array of props on a set that’s a work of art, REP’s production of The Grapes of Wrath does justice to a masterpiece of writing and of adaptation that, set without compromise in a prolonged drought in the midwestern United States during the Great Depression, reveals, with finesse and genuine compassion, the best and the worst of humanity.

 

Frank Galati’s 1989 adaptation translates all the pathos and drama of Steinbeck’s novel but manages amazingly to inject a good deal of humour, nicely breaking a steady rise in tension.  In fact, the play shows us all too plainly yesterday’s prejudices against newcomers as today’s received wisdom; this is, surprisingly, an enlightening play for our own benighted times.

 

Chris Baldock’s direction of this classic gave it all that it deserves: subtle acting; beautiful timing; perfect costuming; spot-on sound; lighting that suits perfectly the time, the season, and the era; and smooth transitions.  The parts were superbly cast, and every line was delivered with just the right amount of feeling.  That we came to sympathise with so many of the characters let down by “acts of God” and foreclosed on through entrenched greed reflects the actors’ discipline in keeping their characters real.  Impressive by any standards, REP’s Grapes of Wrath is a mesmerising production, one you mustn’t miss.

 

John P. Harvey

Photographer: Helen Drum

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