by Frank Galati based on the novel by John Steinbeck.

Mercury Theatre Balkerne Gate CO1 1PT To 30 October 2010.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm 28 Oct 2pm 30 Oct 2.30pm.
Audio-described 30 Oct 2.30pm.
Captioned 28 Oct.
Post-show Discussion 7.30pm.
Runs 2hr 55min One interval.

TICKETS: 01206 573948.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 25 October.

The land they belong to ain’t grand.
Only four years later Rodgers and Hammerstein were celebrating Oklahoma musically, but that was the farmers and cowboys of 1906. John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel shows the destitute, repossession-plagued thirties state.

It resonates with deprivation everywhere and whenever. The Joads may be honest farmers but when they join the westward trail to California they become merely ‘Okies’, a term used with the contemptuous venom that ‘immigrant ’ has in xenophobic mouths today – fellow-Americans though they were.

And the novel delivers a sock to those who seek economic solutions in private provision. Oklahoma’s been flooded with promises of jobs, ensuring too many jobseekers, who’re then played against each other for lower pay. Promised rates are halved, strikes broken with baseball-bats, travellers burned out of their camp, while police corruptly and violently uphold owners’ rights

Yet each act ends with a suggestion of hope. The first brings the Joads to the edge of their promised land, lights fading on the two children pointing out its wonders to each other. The final fadeout shows how even a death can provide life. It’s a wondrously moving image here, Emily Woodward’s bereaved mother moving slowly and shyly, catching the embarrassment as well as the necessity of providing milk for a stranger.

Tony Casement’s production has an epic sweep throughout. This is theatre where each performance unselfishly contributes to a larger picture, imaged in the Joads collected on the pile of cases that forms their jalopy, circling on the stage revolve. It’s a triumph of the Mercury’s ensemble working, enhanced by a community company who burst on stage to show the mass migration, then join the misery of the private work-camp, and the happiness of a well-ordered, government-run place with its celebratory hoe-down.

Dawn Allsopp’s setting of ramshackle buildings and ruined fencing imprisoning the characters, can be turned into nocturnal starscape panoramas by Ben Payne’s lighting, showing nights that are beautiful or sinister. The onstage musical trio intensify many moments in this glorious production. Gripping and delightful by turns, it’s a magnificent example of hard work and great skill combining to give audiences a seamless, searing experience.

Ma: Nicky Goldie.
Pa: Roger Delves-Broughton.
Casy: Tim Treslove.
Uncle John: Ignatius Anthony.
Grandpa: Adrian Stokes.
Grandma/Mrs Wainwright: Gilian Cally.
Al: Thomas Richardson.
Noah: Keith Dunphy.
Floyd Knowles/Musician: Ian Harris.
Weedpatch Director/Musician: Jim Kitson.
Muley/Proprietor: David Tarkenter.
Man Going Back/Musician: Christopher Staines.
Elizabeth Sandry: Kelly Williams.
Connie: Patrick Knowles.
Tom: Gary Shelford.
Rose of Sharon: Emily Woodward.
Winfield: Nicholas Kemp/Alfie Sexton.
Ruthie: Claudia White/Jennifer Collins.

Director: Tony Casement.
Designer: Dawn Allsopp.
Lighting: Ben Payne.
Sound: Marcus Christensen.
Musical director: Ian Harris.
Movement: Charlie Morgan.
Dialect coach: Charmian Hoare.
Fight director: Philip d’Orleans.

2010-10-26 12:06:16

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