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Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Colour Purple

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Chapel Off Chapel – 13 October – 6 November 2016

Stageart presents the Australian premiere of The Colour Purple, directed by Robbie Carmellotti.

Physically and emotionally beaten into submission by her father, fourteen-year-old Celie (Jayme-Lee Hanekom) is trapped in a cycle of abuse as she is passed from her father (Augustine Tchantcho) to her equally violent husband (Kendrew Heriveaux). With the help of strong-willed female influences Sofia (Vanessa Menjivar) and jazz performer Shug Avery (Thando Sikwila), Celie develops her sense of self-worth and overcomes a lifetime of hardships.

Carmellotti’s stripped back production highlights the cast’s impressive vocal talent. Initially appealing but otherwise unremarkable, Carmellotti’s simple set design soon proves itself versatile.

Thando Sikwila is a powerful, sexualised force as Shug Avery

Combined with the efforts of Jason Bovard of Moving Light Productions, the simple platform, set of benches and circular frame of hanging lights provide subtle transitional cues that enhance without distracting from the performance. Several dropped down lights function as a swing set. The benches become a front porch, a series of beds, and Harpo’s juke joint.

Rhiannon Irving’s costume design is similarly simplistic. Irving contrasts the relatively subdued initial costumes with the playfulness of Miss Celie’s pants designs.

The simple set design and choreography let the cast’s powerful vocals shine.

Jayme-Lee Hanekom as Celie is emotionally raw with flawless vocal control. She commands attention as she guides the audience through Celie’s feminist awakening.

Thando Sikwila is a powerful, sexualised force as Shug Avery. From the sensual ‘Too Beautiful For Words’ to the raunchy ‘Push Da Button,’ Sikwila’s delivery is effortless and charismatic. Despite the apparent lack of chemistry between Sikwila and each of her lovers, her vocal performance is powerful and emotionally rich, making up for any gaps in the believability of these relationships.

StageArt delivers an unforgettable performance of this Tony Award-winning tale of liberation and feminist awakening.