Earlier this year, the local production of The Color Purple was the talk of the town. Social media was abuzz with rave reviews from theatre goers but, unfortunately, I missed the show’s first run. So, when I found out that the show was coming back (in Women’s month nogal), I was ecstatic.
The production spreads an important message and one that echoes the global MeToo campaign loudly. Despite being set in Southern America during the early 1900s, the portrayal of women abuse is still a valuable lesson every audience member is sure to take home with them.
The Color Purple is based on the 1982 novel by Alice Walker. In the production, we are introduced to sisters Celie and Nettie. The sisters live a hard life. Celie is constantly raped by her father Alphonso and gives birth to two children who are taken away from her moments after giving birth. Nettie is still trying to be a good student but, being the prettier of the two, already has a men looking for her hand in marriage.
Alphonso gives Celie over to Albert ‘Mister’ Johnson – an abusive tobacco farmer – to marry. The two sisters are separated and soon have no contact with each other. After years without hearing from her sister, Celie starts to believe Nettie has died.
As the years go on, Celie learns to deal with Mister’s abusive ways but learns to step up for herself after she meets Sofia, Mister’s son Harpo’s wife, and Shug Avery – one of Mister’s former lovers. Sophia teaches Celie that women don’t need to accept abuse but it’s Shug Avery that really changes Celie. She is the first person to show the character any sort of love and affection since Nettie was taken away from her and the two start to develop romantic feelings for each other as they find solace and comfort.
The themes of the production are quite dark and heavy but the truth is, is that although the production deals with some very powerful topics, the story is rather inspirational.
South Africa is the third stage in the world (behind Broadway and the West End) to host this production and the local cast did it fabulously. Didintle Khunou gives what can easily be considered the best theatrical performance on any stage this year in the show. She takes the audience through a whole array of emotions and makes them feel, cry, laugh and smile all within the two and a half hour-long production.
The supporting cast do their roles an equal amount of justice. Neo Motaung gives the production some comic relief as Sofia while Lelo Ramasimong oozes sex appeal as Shug Avery. Everyone from the supporting cast to Mister, Nettie and more gave emotional performances and quickly gets the audience invested in the story they are trying to share.
Music is a big part of The Color Purple and the local talent left their heart on that stage. The vocal performances were impressive and the soundtrack plays an important part in telling their story. With a mix of gospel, R&B and Jazz, the musical aspect of the show enhanced the powerful message the story shares while keeping it entertaining.
The set was simple and effective which allowed the actors to effortlessly move through periods and places to tell a smooth story. Made mostly of wood, the sets were easy to manoeuvre and set the scene clearly without being too overwhelming.
It’s rare to see such a wonderful story enhanced by all the audio and visual aspects around it being a theatre production. Apart from the music, the sets and the actors (of course), the costumes are also something that I need to mention. Again, simplicity is key here but the costume designer really hit the nail on the head here too.
Although the production was a little too long and there were a few scenes which could have been made shorter, The Color Purple really lives up to its hype.
The Color Purple is set to inspire audiences with its unapologetic mission to both educate and inspire. Not only will audiences see how we as human beings need to do better in 2018 and protect women who may not be able to protect themselves but also to inspire audiences to never settle, know their worth and chase happiness. A phenomenal production.
The Color Purple runs until September 2 at the Joburg Theatre. Tickets are available from Computicket now.
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