A REVIEW BY NYAKALLO MOTLOUNG
The Color Purple SA: A Display of Black Girl Magic
I was brought to tears by this musical, not only because of the magic I was seeing on stage but also because of how much I, as an actress, wanted to be on that stage. This was due to the immense level of quality presented to us at the Mandela Theatre. This is saying a lot since I have never been the biggest fan of musicals. Although this may be due to the fact that I am bitter about not being born with the ability to sing. Nonetheless, a stunning production is a stunning production, regardless of being a fan of the medium. And that is exactly what The Color Purple SA is…stunning!
The Color Purple is a novel written by black American author, Alice Walker in 1982 and was later adapted as a film directed by Steven Spielberg. The film cast included an astonishing cast with names such as Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover so expectations for this South African musical were sky high. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed in the slightest.
The Color Purple SA, staged at the Joburg Theatre, is directed by Janice Honeyman, famous for her immense contribution to musicals and pantomime in South Africa especially. The production, set in Georgia, USA in the early 1900s, tells the heart-breaking but inspiring tale of Celie, a black women who is the face of domestic violence, sexual abuse and a broken spirit. Celie, played by Didintle Khunou (a dear friend of mine) portrayed the role with such grace and truth. Her character journey was a delight to watch; from a timid and submissive southern wife to a confident, independent woman ‘who don’t need no man’. It is truly inspiring for a black woman like myself to see Celie glowing and growing in all her self-love and to see her singing ‘I’m Here’, the song where she finally sees her true self and leaves her abusive and degrading husband, Mister (Aubrey Poo). Celie finally realises she is worthy and enough of all the good things in the world. Additionally, her relationships and bonds with her sister Nettie (Sebe Leotlela), Shug Avery (Lerato Mvelase) and Sophia (Neo Motaung) who are all portrayals of proud and commanding black women are a reflection of the love and hope that comes with black sisterhood.
Finally, I want to talk about the three town gossips, Darlene (Lelo Ramasimong), Doris (Dolly Louw) and Jarene (Ayanada Sibisi). I absolutely loved these women. They served as the chorus and commentary of the show. The trio performed in snippets but completely blew me away or rather, snatched my wig, honey! Their harmonising was so beautiful and the unity between their voices and the incredible live band was, for lack of better wording, music to my ears. The ladies were witty and exciting and left me wanting more and more. If I had only three words to describe them, they would be #BlackGirlMagic.
This production goes down as one of my favourite musicals, along with Kakadu, which was also staged at the Joburg Theatre last year. I would give it 4.5 starts out of 5 stars, with my only criticism being the lack of consistency of the accents with regards to some characters. Nonetheless, The Color Purple SA is truly a force to be reckoned with and deserves all the glory it has been receiving and will continue to receive.
It will be staged at the Joburg Theatre until Sunday 4 March 2018. If you miss it, you will truly be missing out!