Based on the 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, ‘The Color Purple’ was adapted to a multi-award winning film in 1985 and has been staged on Broadway in the United States and the UK before.
It opened at the Joburg Theatre on Monday (February 04) to a packed house.
The powerful story of a young African-American girl called “Celie” who suffers abuse and racism was played by a South African Theatre company, with up and coming actor and vocalist, Didintle Khunou playing the lead.
“The story really speaks back to domestic violence and misogyny and the importance of women establishing relationship where they can be sources of refuge to one another,” she said.
It took four years to secure the rights for The Color Purple to make it on to a South Africa stage.
Producers say the story had all the elements to resonate with the reality of life for many women in South Africa.
“Here we are in the 21st century and some of these dreadfull things that happened in the book of “The Color Purple” are still happening here, they are still daily headlines, so I felt that perhaps this musical also if we present it well on stage here, might get a message over to people as well, but you don’t behave like this with women, you don’t subjugate women, you don’t treat them badly and put them in a lower strata of society, so I also liked the fact but ‘The Color Purple’ had a message to give,” said the show’s Executive producer Bernard Jay.
The role of ‘Mister’ – the man to whom Celie was married off to at 14 years old and who administers abuse and mistreatment with such brutality to the woman that must also raise his children from an earlier relationship, was played by Aubry Poo.
The film role was played by award-winning American actor, Danny Glover.
“The role was made iconic by Danny Glover, and for me to be given the honour and the responsibility to relive that role and then stepping into those shoes, I ‘m quite honoured to do so. I think a lot of people will be coming to watch our show will reference to the movie, and with such an iconic performance I think one needs to bring the best foot forward,” he said.
For the cast the story felt very close to home, Khunou said.
“I come from a context where I was conditioned to silence my voice and that is why I was introduced to drama, that’s why I ended up doing theatre, because I found that the theatre became a place where I felt my voice mattered, it felt like a place where I belong, and what I resonate Celie with, is understanding what it feels like to come from a space where you think your voice doesn’t matter, your opinion of what happens in the world and of yourself and not others, is the least important.”
The play drew positive reviews from its first night with critics saying it was an ambitious and successful production.
The production will run up until March 4.