The Color Purple

Posted by Laurence Green

Laurence Green enjoys a deeply moving and exhilarating musical adaptation of Alice Walker's The Color Purple.

The Color PurpleAn inspirational journey from a brutalised childhood through joy and despair and anguish and hope is how you could describe John Doyle's musical stage adaptation of Alice walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple (Menier Chocolate Factory).

The action is set in the American South during the 1930s and 40s and at the heart of the narrative are two indomitable sisters, Celie and Nettie. Celie is raped by her stepfather at the age of 12, bears him two children and is then married off to another violent man named Mister, who forbids all contact with her cherished sibling. Two feisty women, Sofia and Shug Avery, provide Celie with the shining beacon of hope through too many dark days.

This stirring family chronicle has, despite its grim subject matter, been turned into an invigorating and absorbing musical - by Marsha Norman - that offers plenty of laughter as well as a fresh joyous score of jazz, ragtime, gospel and blues (music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray) that provides a welcome pick-me-up to, although never diminishing, the tears and struggle of Celie after years of hardship and abuse as she strikes out for independence.

Simply staged on scrubbed boards, with chains on pegs, this epic, but intimate show skilfully manages to intensify and clarify the changing the relationships in Celie's life in an economical fashion.

Director John Doyle draws an outstanding central performance from Cynthia Erivo as the downtrodden but determined Celie, a wandering spectator in her own life, as she faces the setbacks, injustices and terrible abuse but whose resilience demonstrates the power of love to endure adversity and her rendition of "I'm here" provides a spine-tingling ode to self liberation. Strong support from comes from Abiona Omonua as her beloved sister Nettie, Sophia Nomvete, droll and touching as Sophia and Nicola Hughes who brings wit and warmth to the glamorous entertainer Shug.

In all then, a deeply moving and exhilarating show that richly deserves a West End transfer.

The Color Purple runs at Menier Chocolate Factory until Saturday 14 September

Box office: 020 7378 1713

A special meal deal is offered to theatregoers comprising a two-course pre-theatre supper plus show from £37.50 - £43.00

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