The Color Purple Opens at Curve- We talk to Director Tinuke Craig

The Color Purple_T'Shan Williams (Celie) and Danielle Fiamanya (Nettie)_Photography by Manuel Harlan

With a profoundly evocative score drawing inspiration from jazz, ragtime, gospel and blues, this moving family chronicle set in racially divided southern America, celebrates life, love and the strength to stand up for who you are and what you believe in.  We caught up with the show’s Director Tinuke Craig to find out more.

The Color Purple is a book or a film that people tend to hold very close to their heart. How faithful is the musical version of the story?

The musical production is very faithful to the film and the same in lots of ways. The book is very specific, told through letters and so as a two-hour stage version the story is presented quite differently. The musical feels more alive and in present tense – whenever anything is put onto a stage it is elevated to an almost fantastical version. The musical is a kind of blown-up fantasia of the film plus live singing and live acting – which makes it pretty incredible!

The show is set over almost all of Celie’s life, is that challenging to represent on stage? Yes it is and it’s a particularly big challenge for T’Shan, who’s playing Celie. We’ll do it largely through costumes, acting and the music to make sure the audience know where we are at any given time.

There are some deeply upsetting moments in Celie’s story – violence, rape, mental abuse – but there are also moments of extreme happiness and self-discovery. How do you strike the balance? I think you have to be very clear with the story and not shy away from that trauma: you need to comprehend that abuse and violence to feel the impact of the show. The balance is struck by the musical theatre elements which offset some of that darkness. Songs are often used in musicals to form a release moment from a pressure valve and that’s what we’ll be doing here.

The Color Purple_T'Shan Williams (Celie) and Danielle Fiamanya (Nettie)_Photography by Manuel Harlan

The Color Purple_T’Shan Williams (Celie) and Danielle Fiamanya (Nettie)_Photography by Manuel Harlan

The Color Purple_T'Shan Williams (Celie) and Danielle Fiamanya (Nettie)_Photography by Manuel Harlan

The Color Purple_T’Shan Williams (Celie) and Danielle Fiamanya (Nettie)_Photography by Manuel Harlan

The Color Purple_T'Shan Williams (Celie) and Danielle Fiamanya (Nettie)_Photography by Manuel Harlan

The Color Purple_T’Shan Williams (Celie) and Danielle Fiamanya (Nettie)_Photography by Manuel Harlan

The Color Purple_T'Shan Williams (Celie) and Danielle Fiamanya (Nettie)_Photography by Manuel Harlan

The Color Purple_T’Shan Williams (Celie) and Danielle Fiamanya (Nettie)_Photography by Manuel Harlan

The Color Purple_T'Shan Williams (Celie) and Danielle Fiamanya (Nettie)_Photography by Manuel Harlan

The Color Purple_T’Shan Williams (Celie) and Danielle Fiamanya (Nettie)_Photography by Manuel Harlan


Are there enough shows like The Color Purple? I think that we could always do with more representation of the experiences of people who don’t get their voices heard that much – women, people of colour, people living through particular periods of history we could learn from. At the moment there aren’t enough stories that do that in theatre but I also hope that we can move beyond the starting point for these stories always being pain. I hope that in the future we’ll see more stories of people of colour, women and others who aren’t recognised as often as they should be without trauma always being a key feature.

Despite being a period piece, does Celie’s story resonate with the world we live in now? Yes, I think it does because all through time and culture there are people who are silenced or erased, voices not heard, not valued, opinions deemed not worthy by society. We need to focus in on those voices and who those people are, letting them be heard in our world. There are Celies everywhere, in every generation and every culture – this story helps to remind us all to take notice and listen.

What can audience members expect from the score? Audiences can expect something quite varied, rooted in the sounds of the black American south with gospel, blues and jazz, caught up in American and musical tradition. There are big, on-the-money vocal numbers which our cast will raise the roof with and emotional, evocative numbers. It’s a very powerful score and I’m excited to hear it come to life with this production.

The Color Purple runs at Curve until 13th July and at Birmingham Hippodrome from the 16th – 20th July.

Tickets at www.curveonline.co.uk and www.birminghamhippodrome.com

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