Review: The Color Purple, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Review: The Color Purple, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

by Catherine Collins.

The story of fear, abuse and oppression may not be what is expected of a musical, and yet The Color Purple, which opened at Mayflower Theatre last night (25 October), is exactly that.

Based on Alice Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, The Color Purple tells the story of Celie, a Black woman growing up in America’s Deep South during the first half of the 20th century.

When we first see Celie, she is playing with her sister, Nettie, but we learn that all is not as it seems and Celie’s life is one of abuse at the hands of who she believes is her father, who then forces her into a marriage with Mister – a man who treats her like a slave.

The show is a difficult watch at times, with dark undertones of sexual abuse, domestic violence, and poverty, and yet despite this – it is a tale of hope, as Celie overcomes adversity to find her voice, and the strength to survive.

This is a truly tremendous feat of acting from a wholly exceptional cast, with seriously strong vocal performances.

Me’sha Bryan is mesmerizing in her emotive portrayal of Celie.

She puts her whole soul into every scene and song, and when she finally stands up to her husband – the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Ako Mitchell is convincing in his role as the cruel Mister, and it’s easy to see how he has racked up so many film, theatre and television credits when he is on the stage – he makes it very easy to dislike the character he plays.

Rosemary Annabella Nkrumah is outstanding as Shug Avery, giving a captivating performance that justly depicts her talent on stage, and Anelisa Lamola also gives a passionate portrayal as Sofia – capturing her character’s two very different sides as the story plays out.

The times we saw Aaliyah Zhané on stage as Nettie showed her stage skills were something to be seen – she has a strong career ahead of her, and Ahmed Hamad as Harpo became a firm audience favourite.

This is a show about triumph over adversity, and the themes are hard-hitting, and yet despite its serious subjects, The Color Purple features enough humour and musical theatre to take the audience on an incredibly moving journey like no other – it really is worth a watch!

Tickets for The Color Purple (25 – 29 October 2022) are on sale at: or 02380 711811.

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