Reviewed by Linda Curtain
Another week heralds the arrival of another musical at the Theatre Royal Plymouth. Renowned for high class and varied productions, this week sees ‘The Colour Purple’ on stage. Based on Alice Walker’s 1983 novel and adapted for stage by award- winner Marsha Norman, this is the somewhat harrowing story of an African-American woman Celie growing up in the Deep South in the early 20th century.
Many people will know of the novel and the film starring Whoopi Goldberg but having never seen the film or read the book, I arrived at the theatre with a somewhat blank canvas.
On arriving last evening the theatre was quite busy with people looking forward to the opening night. Tickets were scanned as we arrived and we were politely directed to our seats in the auditorium. The Theatre Royal is always bright and welcoming. With easy access by public transport or easy parking facilities nearby, an enjoyable evening is guaranteed. With programme in hand, I settled into my seat to watch the story unfold.
The basic storyline shows how Celie’s childhood was dominated and her innocence destroyed at the hands of her father. Spanning over four decades, the story follows her enforced marriage to ‘Mister’ where physical and mental abuse continued. Time spent with her sister Nellie was her only escape but when she suddenly disappears, Celie’s life continues on its downward spiral. Despite all this, Celie stays true to her faith and prays to god for answers to this abusive life. She remains upbeat and positive, convinced that better things will come. The arrival and friendship of two dynamic people – Sofia and Shug Avery – confirms the conviction that women have the right to a better life.
This was certainly a hard story to watch at times, with male dominance and female subversion at the forefront. The way that Celie eventually rises above the torment though, really shone through – especially in the second act.
With some wonderfully poignant songs, this show was very much song driven. Music ranged from jazz to ragtime and gospel to soulful blues. The company certainly gave their all to deliver so many songs and cleverly choreographed dance routines. The songs carried you through various emotions as Celie grew in confidence to become her own empowered woman.
Me’sha Bryan took on the role of Celie – such a hard emotional role which she delivered with sensitivity and compassion. She was amazing throughout and it was great to see the transformation from an abused teenager to a confident adult.
Anelisa Lamola as Sofia was a strong, confident performer from the outset. With a powerful singing voice she portrayed her character well and owned the stage.
Bree Smith as Shug Avery gave a great performance and sang with such emotion and conviction.
Despite the somewhat harrowing storyline, some comedy elements were well executed- especially by Jimand Allotey as Squeak, although I found her diction sometimes hard to understand.
I did also find the African-American accents hard to understand at times however this did not distract from the storyline.
This is a story which encourages strength, love and empowerment to enable you to stand up for what you believe and follow your own dreams.
A well delivered, thought – provoking story.
Tickets cost from £18.00 from www.theatreroyal.com
The Colour Purple is at Theatre Royal Plymouth until 1st October.