Thomas Howells reviews The Color Purple at Wales Millennium Centre.
Based on Alice Walker’s novel, The Color Purple has been brought to the stage and now gets it’s opportunity to dazzle audience across the UK.
The play carries many difficult themes including violence against women but despite this, it is played with women dominating the stage, the main character Celie is almost always present. It reminds the audience that despite their situation, they are the ones who matter here and nobody is defined by how others treat them.
When Celie and her sister Nettie are playing when we first meet them, it’s a scene full of innocent play, but we quickly find out that innocence has been ruthlessly betrayed. The man Celie thinks is her father has been sexually abusing her all of her life. When he has had enough of her, he pushes her into a marriage with Mister, a guy who treats her like a slave.
Me’sha Bryan gorgeously portrays Celie, truly capturing the feeling of the character in the book as a heart-warming and beloved character even in the worst possible times. She’s paired with Aaliyah Zhané who plays Nettie, the sister of Celie who disappears and raises concern but while she is present she brings with her the most beautiful moments of the play in start and in end.
Mister, played by Ako Mitchell, is a harsh character who is easy to despise. However, this production is quite nuanced, so we also see that he is a by-product of his own upbringing and acts exactly like his father did, since he is oblivious to any other options. He lives in a society where people like gossiping but are less likely to jump in to offer assistance or make an intervention.
The play contains a lot of humour despite its frequently serious subject matter, not the least of which is a comedic trio whose remarks are a contemporary spin on the Greek chorus tradition.
Alex Lowde’s designs and costumes firmly position us in the Southern US with much of the action taking place on the porch.
The set is shaped in a book-like way likely referencing the novel with sets like the porch, inside of a house or a window making it come off similar to a traumatic, tragic pop up book.
The Color Purple is impossible to dislike with an incredible story about love, loss and everything coming together in the end. It is undoubtedly inspirational and if you’ve loved the book or film or even never heard of it before, but want to feel meaning, I fully recommend this show.
- The Color Purple continues at Wales Millennium Centre until October 22, 2022. For ticket availability visit Wales Millennium Centre’s website.