Meeting Tom Joad

Les Raisins de la Colère

On Tuesday 12 March, the 2Medialangues class saw a rehearsal of a play The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck adapted and directed by Xavier Simonin at Espace Carpeaux, Courbevoie. It was a singular privilege in these lockdown days.

He personally welcomed us and first introduced the story and its historical context in order to help us get involved in the show.

This presentation really allowed us to better imagine the situation and characters, what living-conditions were like back in the early ‘30s. For those who had not read the novel or heard any stories that took place at the time, this step was essential.

The plot was about a family who had to migrate from Oklahoma to California after huge dust storms had destroyed most of their crops and land. They eventually had to come back to Oklahoma after realizing the conditions in California weren’t actually what they had dreamt of. The main character Tom Joad has just been released from prison after serving four years for killing a man in a bar brawl.

He comes back to his hometown and family as they get ready to set out with their few belongings loaded on an old truck.

The play relates about everything they had to go through because of the consequences of the Great Depression which ended a year before the story takes place.

The narrative style was evocative enough to conjure up images of the dustbowls, the old towns destroyed and the economic crisis but the set and music were really instrumental in my imagining the scene.

The actor, Xavier Simonin, was utterly convincing. It really felt like somebody from that time was telling his story. He plays all the parts alone, which is a real tour-de-force.

In the background, three musicians were playing country music or blues with a guitar, a banjo, and a bass.

Beside serving its original purpose of entertaining the audience, the music actually transports you into the characters ‘shoes and helps fill up a sort of void the set conveyed as it was so minimal. Yet, it definitely was enough to get immersed in the atmosphere.

I believe the story is unfortunately still relevant today since so many families are forced to leave their homes because of poverty and natural disasters.

This onstage format is very different from the show I am used to watching. Even if I don’t believe people my age are the targeted audience I would be interested in seeing the play once they are done rehearsing and the virus is done plaguing us.

Armand and Céleste


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