Theatre Review: The Color Purple


Critiquing a musical with so much history and prominence should be easy, but without having borne witness to its predecessors, the exercise becomes challenging. So without placing too much emphasis on Alice Walker‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning tale, or its strictly copyrighted stage script and musical numbers, focus must fall on the execution thereof, and Bernard Jay’s South African narration is stunning.

The story is difficult to digest, filled with necessary commentary on pertinent social issues that still plaque our society to date. Set in 1930s rural Georgia, in the USA, the story follows the life of an African American woman named Celie, whose struggle against the patriarchal nature of the time is filled with issues of abuse, sexism, racism as well as her exceedingly low position in American culture.

Brought to life by the adorable Didintle Khunou, the local actress has some big shoes to fill and her delivery is on point. Stepping into her musical lead with ease, Didi’s ability to fill a sometimes bare stage with intense feelings of sorrow and pain, is everything she needed to secure the roll. The only setback is, she doesn’t entirely fit the dark skinned ill-favoured young woman she is meant to portray.

That being said, it doesn’t make her story any less significant and, despite significant strides made for the liberation of women and the fight for equal rights, these issues continue at the forefront of public debate.

With issues of violence, abuse, adversity and hopelessness dominating the beginning of the show, the first act is a little more unpalatable than the rest, but with the healing power of love and triumph that decorate its closing scenes, the story as a whole will to leave you inspired and coming back for more – I have been privileged to see the show three times already.

Currently in its second run at the Mandela, Joburg Theatre, the beautiful and vivacious Lelo Ramasimong steps into the role of Shug Avery, from her position as a church lady, and this role really allows her shine for all she’s worth. Not only is she believable in her portrayal of the charming character, but the new title allows her full reign to showcase her pipes.

Show highlight undoubtedly goes to Neo Motaung, who plays the controversial and much loved Sophia. The North West born and raised actress – recently cast in The Lion King Musical – ultimately steals the show with her ‘no-care’ attitude and off-the-chain humour. Unapologetically raucous and unfettered, Sophia inspires the audience as much as she does her on-stage peers.

The future is bright for Neo and I can’t wait to see where she ends up.

To add to its integrity and promote the desire for social change, The Color Purple The Musical SA have once again teamed up with Non-Profit Company RADA (an acronym for rape, alcohol, drug and abuse).

J-P Nobrega, founder of RADA explains, ““We are extremely proud to collaborate with the incredible cast and unbelievable team that breaths life to The Color Purple.  In its simplest form, RADA aims to spread a message of love and empowerment.  By the same token, The Color Purple epitomises this message and encompasses a story of incredible achievement through terrible adversity.  The musical so brilliantly conveys how a person can reinvent themselves no matter life’s difficulties.  It therefore makes perfect sense to combine forces and inspire a nation.”

The show is currently on at The Mandela, Joburg Theatre until 2 September 2018. Tickets range from R240 and are available from the Joburg Theatre box office or selected Pick N Pay stores.



Leave a Reply