The Color Purple SA: A Display of Black Girl Magic

A REVIEW BY NYAKALLO MOTLOUNG

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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!

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La Boheme

By Nyakallo Motloung

Although I am a big theatre goer, I am a novice with regards to opera and that is why I was excited when I was invited to the opening night of La Boheme at the Joburg Theatre. La Boheme is an age-old but timeless love and loss story between a young couple, Rodolfo and Mimi. The opera is a Gauteng Opera production directed by Marcus Desando, music by the Gauteng Opera Orchestra and conducted by Eddie Clayton. The cast consists of local performers and they really sold me there. I had never seen an opera live and to see the mainly black cast list got me even more excited and internally, I was singing Solange Knowles’ F.U.B.U. But, I digress. Additionally, being a lover of poor theatre, it is always a great experience for me to see the other side of the game, consisting of grand sets and costumes.

So I sat in my seat with great expectations, awaiting the show to start. The curtain opened and I saw a simple but lovely set. I could tell instantly that the opera had been modernised as I saw the chic apartment of Rodolfo and Macello and their modern costume. Unfortunately my heart sank a bit as I struggled to hear the male performers in the beginning and was not helped much by the confusing subtitles. Performers’ lack of projection on stage always makes me feel as though I am looking from the outside on an inside joke, which is very isolating. But I was not deterred, I sat on the edge of my seat and adjusted my concentration from 100 to 110. However, I was instantly taken by Marcello (Solly Motaung) whose voice and physicality was a pleasure to watch throughout the show. His charm went beyond his character. Motaung’s presence on stage and ability to engage the audience was really satisfying to watch. A trait which I was expecting more from Rodolfo (Phenye Modiane) who was the leading man and protagonist of the show. He truly has a beautiful voice and his interactions with Mimi really warmed my heart. However, there is a gentleness in Rodolfo that I feel Modiane played too far and as a result, made him shrink on stage. His actions were too small and there was a lack of commitment in them that made me want to listen to rather than watch him.

However, I was really blown away by Mimi (Khayakazi Madlala). What a star. Her voice really gave me a visceral reaction. I could not hold back from shouting “YAAS GIRL” when she hit those high notes and I would like to apologise to the two ladies who sat beside me. But also, #SorryNotSorry. We had been told that Madlala is a second year student at Gauteng Opera it is such a pleasure to see a new talent who I hope will go very far. Not only was I taken by her voice but also by how well her physicality connected to her voice. The same can be said for the gorgeous Musetta (Litho Nqai). My goodness! I just loved her vocal range and the way she took control of the stage. It was not only in the writing but also in the body of Nqai. As I stated, I am but an eager novice in the world of opera but I am a self-proclaimed expert in spotting performers enjoying themselves on stage; which was what drew me to Motaung, Madlala and Nqai.

My (very high) expectations were not met fully but overall, I enjoyed the show and I have learnt that I really need to watch more opera. Really! I would definitely recommend the show, especially to opera lovers. You have a chance to do so at the beautiful Mandela Theatre at the Joburg Theatre from the 20 – 23rd of July.

Get your tickets at https://www.joburgtheatre.com/la-boheme

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The Movement RSA gets Jittery

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A huge congratulations to Jovan Muthray, Campbell Jessica Meas and Nyakallo Motloung for being successful in their audition to join The Jittery Citizens improv troupe! We look forward to all the funny, on-the-spot work you will produce in the future!

For more information about The Jittery Citizens and their work, please see their official website: http://www.jitterycitizens.com/

Our first project: ‘Just Antigone’

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Our first project as a company was putting on a version of Sophocles’ ‘Antigone’ which encapsulated all three Greek myths surrounding the young heroine. The script, adapted by Mahlatsi Mokgonyana and Billy Langa, infuses traditional heightened text with modern slang and colloquialisms, making the show accessible for modern audiences, in particular the youth.

During January and February 2016, the company rehearsed at the Joburg Theatre before moving into POPArt Theatre in Maboneng, where they performed four shows to sold out crowds. Some of the audience included Johannesburg high schools which are currently studying Antigone as a setwork. The cast and crew hosted a ‘Question and Answer’ session for these schools, to give the learners insight into the show and production process.

The Movement RSA was very grateful to have such a warm reception to our first professional debut!

 

Forming The Movement RSA

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A photograph of the team at our first meeting.

At the end of 2015, Billy Langa, Mahlatsi Mokgonyana and Jovan Muthray called together a group of young, local artists to discuss the current state of theatre in South Africa.

After much consideration, debate and idea sharing, these artists decided to form a theatre collective in order to make fresh, innovative work, promote art within education, and help theatre become accessible to all people. Thus ‘The Movement RSA’ was born.