THIS musical theatre interpretation of The Color Purple is by Marsha Norman, Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray and follows a path of incest, cruelty and misogyny from Alice Walkers original intense novel along the twisting and rocky road to redemption.
It is a Made at Curve production in conjunction with the Birmingham Hippodrome.
Tinuke Craig directed the original Hippodrome production of The Color Purple which I reviewed back in July 2019 in the days when we took live theatre for granted. In this ‘Curve at Home’ production, Craig has had to put her thinking cap on as to how to redirect it for viewing at home – as it says on the label.
Of the original I said ‘Tinuke Craig had directed this outstanding company to the point where the production is perhaps greater than the material. By that I mean every ounce of meaning is dragged from a dialogue that is sometimes a little creaky and the songs, which are a bit samey, but are performed with the apocalyptic zeal of a tabernacle choir.
In this online version, gone is the big stage set, replaced with a trio of moving circles on the stage floor where the actors can travel in different directions, depicting time and place. This plus a few mismatched chairs from the rehearsal room.
Gone is any kissing or cuddling – indeed n’ere a hands-on touchy-feely moment of any kind as this has to be a Covid-conscious production.
Gone too is a packed auditorium with its backcloth of gasps, laughs and applause.
What is delivered though is a clever transformation – a cross between a movie and a stage play with big close ups taking you closer to the action than you could ever be sitting somewhere twixt stalls and circle. You can see the sweat, feel the power of the moment and become absorbed by the intimacy.
The music too has taken on a new vibrancy and seems more inclusive than in the original.
T’Shan Williams as Celie is onstage for almost the entire show and carries the weight of storytelling, lung-bursting songstress, principal victim and ultimate heroine on her shoulders – a task she accomplishes magnificently.
Ako Mitchell is suitably loathsome as the detestable Mister, Simon-Anthony Rhoden makes a rakish Harpo and Geoff Aymer a tut-worthy Ol’ Mister who has cast a misogynistic shadow over his son.
Danielle Fiamanya delights as Nettie, Karen Mavundukure excels as the larger than life Sofia and Carly Mercedes-Dyer stirs our spirits as the arch-feminist Shug Avery.
There is a wonderful ‘Greek chorus’ comprising Dannielle Kassaraté, Landi Oshinowo and Rosemary Annabella Nkrumah as three beautifully crafted old ladies – Doris, Jarene and Darlene.
This trio delivers delightfully waspish comment in a combination of quick-fire stand-up and delectable asides.
They are supported by a magnificent company and a stunning technical team.
Whilst we can’t physically go to the theatre, you can still get your musical theatre fix with this excellent show. Streaming details here: www.curveoneline.co.uk