As we approach the one-year mark of lockdown – and the closing of theatres across the UK, the concept of being able to enjoy a play in the comfort of your own home sounds more appealing to me than ever.
It is vital to support new and upcoming productions in any way we can if we want to be able to still enjoy a night out at theatre after COVID-19. However, I must admit I still had doubts about how the actors and production team could create the exciting buzz of a live theatre production virtually.
The Color Purple, directed by Tinuke Craig, manages to capture both the emotion and passion of a live play despite only being on my laptop screen. From the beautifully engaging musical score, directed by Alex Parker, to the poignant washes of colour, created by lighting designer Ben Cracknell, this powerful production truly encapsulates the essence of the theatre experience while also telling an important story about race and gender.
Celie, played by T’Shan Williams, takes the audience on a wonderfully told journey of self-love and female empowerment – with the help of characters such as Sofia (Karen Mavundukure), and Shug Avery (Carly Mercedes Dyer) – and this storyline is, in some ways, more raw than ever being told virtually, as the camera truly captures the small moments of connection between audience and actors in a way you may not notice in a large theatre. The seconds where the actors break the fourth wall are elevated due to this and therefore I felt as though I was truly engulfed in the beauty and heartbreak of The Color Purple. It is also a way to watch a play ‘in-the-round’ style while still being able to fully appreciate every character’s personal storyline, which was cleverly put together with the help of the camera crew (Video Producer & Editor Dan Flanders, Director of Photography Jordan Dean, and Camera Operator Duncan MacLeod).
There was never a scene where I felt as though I was missing out due to the seat I was in, and due to this, I – as an audience member – connected more deeply with each individual plot. In addition to this, the production features lively, enthusiastic songs about culture, sexuality, and family love, and every one thoroughly engages the audience despite being over a laptop screen. The actors perfectly portray the warmth and enthusiasm each song deserves, and the overall production is woven together by the heartfelt musical element.
As a whole, this incredible collaboration between the Birmingham Hippodrome and The Curve allows you to enjoy a poignantly told performance safely inside your own home, while still experiencing that theatre buzz we are all craving. With a glass of Prosecco in hand and a warm blanket, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect evening.