You don’t simply ‘watch’ The Color Purple, you experience it … it’s akin to a religious experience where you immerse yourself in it, and then you emerge afterwards feeling that any piece of theatre hereon after is always going to be compared to this and will be left wanting.
As I drifted out of the auditorium, I caught these snippets from fellow theatre-goers: ‘Extraordinary’! ‘Marvelous’! ‘Simply superb’! Yes, they all spoke using hyperbole because that’s just about all that can be said for this production – if one is not rendered speechless by its sheer excellence.
I’m sure I’m in the vast minority of those who had not previously read the book (written by Alice Walker in 1982) or even seen the film of the same name. So I had only a vague notion of the background and storyline before going to see the show. I’m not sure this makes a difference. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
Within seconds of opening the audience is swept away by the innocent exuberance of Celie (Didintle Khunou) and her sister Nettie (Sebe Leotlela) bursting onto the stage, singing as only children without a care can. But within just short moments we realise this isn’t the case. Time moves swiftly onstage and we see that this simplicity is just a front for the harsh life that the sisters experience. It’s the early 1900’s in the American South: times are tough for young African-American women.
In these times troubles are borne with proud humility. Life dishes out harsh blows, as do the men from whom there seems no escape. However Celie finds shelter from the storm in the unlikely form of Shug Avery, the woman her own husband pines for. Sophisticated, stylish, and with a mind of her own, Shug is the first person to show Celie how to nurture her own individuality. For the first time Celie begins to understand that it might be possible that she’s her own person, and that she might have a chance at having a life of her own, away from the cruelty and appalling conditions inflicted upon her by the loathsome Mister. Khunou plays Celie with dignity, charm and strength and a voice that will capture your heart.
Lerato Mvelase makes an enchanting Shug. She holds everyone in the palm of one hand, while wanting to grab all that life has to offer her with the other. It’s a riveting performance. And in the very eye of the Shug storm is Mister, played with such discerning insight by Aubrey Poo that the audience can’t help but be captivated, first despising him, eventually sympathising with him and by the very end of the show feeling quite fond of him.
Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri as Mister’s son is delightfully endearing, with a voice that proves he’s to be taken a lot more seriously than his character might suggest. But it is Neo Motaung who surprises in her role as Sofia, Harpo’s strong-minded wife. Wow! This is a powerhouse of talent to look out for in future. With a voice that pulsates and resonates into your very core, not to mention a laugh that begs to let you in on the private joke! Motaung is an astonishing treasure that has been unearthed!
The entire cast creates a striking ensemble that moves effortlessly to the choreography of Oscar Buthelezi, and under the baton of Musical Director Rowan Bakker, together with the 8-piece orchestra, they generate a joyful noise that will undoubtedly bring audiences to their feet time and time again in thunderous applause, not only at the conclusion of each performance, but at other moving moments throughout it too.
Director Janice Honeyman has proven time and again that she is the Queen of all she surveys in her field but this time she’s outdone herself, and together with Executive Producer Bernard Jay has crafted a genuine masterpiece! This is an authentic gem of a production, the likes of which one rarely gets the privilege to see. Grab the opportunity while you have the chance! You’ll be so glad you did!
The Colour Purple is on The Mandela Stage at The Joburg Theatre until Sunday March 4th, 2018. Tickets are priced from R240: Telephone 0861 670 670, go online at www.joburgtheatre.com or book in person at the Joburg Theatre box office. Theatre patrons can also book online and pay at selected Pick N Pay stores.
[All photo credits: @enroCpics]
Some people let a bump in the road break them down. Others take it in their stride. But the most successful people are those that deal with it and come out on top, having used that bump to give them a clear view of where they want to be when they continue on their journey.
Tracy Ziman Jacobs is that person, who discovered after her divorce in 2011 that no relationship is perfect. However, instead of allowing the divorce to derail her life, she used it for good, knowing that what she learned from her experience could help others. Meeting the positive, animated and bubbly person she is today, it’s hard to believe she was ever in any type of dark place, but directly after her unexpected divorce, a negative space was exactly where the person she is today had to emerge from.
No one gets married assuming it will end in divorce. Tracy certainly didn’t. “When I got married, I thought I’d never get divorced,” she says. “It came as a bit of a shock and after my divorce, I was cynical about marriage,” she admits. But she recognised the hope we as human beings attach to marriage. “It’s the romance that brings us together and after all, people are still getting married,” she muses. So, what’s the recipe for a loving relationship in which both partners are happy?
After soul searching and a lot of research, Tracy’s ethos is ardour (defined by the Oxford Dictionary as ‘great warmth of feeling; fervor; passion’ and ‘intense devotion, eagerness, or enthusiasm; zeal’: romance is key to the marriage-altering work she does with her clients. “I want to save marriages,” she explains, stating that it’s vital to look at what is lacking and return to the basic needs of the relationship. “Look at all those characteristics that drew you to your mate and created that chemistry,” says Tracy, who suggests it is possible to have an affair with your existing partner rather than look outside the marriage for the intimacy and fulfilment you crave. “What’s in an affair? Rather bring it back inside your marriage,” she states. She’s so right! Years into our marriages, when kids, work, and everyday stress takes over our lives, we’ve completely forgotten what first attracted us to our partners! And it seems a bit ridiculous to even think about it – but yet, so obvious.
Tracy’s undertaking to heal herself led her to want to heal others. Enter intimacy coaching: Tracy’s greatest passion. She qualified as an Intimacy Coach through Intimacy Coaching SA (ICSA) in 2016, but her drive to help others didn’t just start then – it goes way back, and is clearly inherent in her nature.
Her wealth of knowledge hasn’t come from life experience alone and is backed up by a BA in Social Sciences (1996, UNISA), as well as practical training with the Family Life Centre (FAMSA). This training led her to counsel both individuals and couples, as well as performGroup Therapy, Family Therapy, Trauma Counselling, Divorce Mediation, Pre-marriage Counselling and Employee Assistance Programmes. Once her training was complete, Tracy was hired by FAMSA as an Occupational Social Worker, enabling her to assist others further in their relationship and life journeys.
Professionalism is top of mind for Tracy. She treats every client with the utmost respect, and knows how important it is for them to feel at ease and nurtured during their sessions. The beautiful space she’s created to work in is inviting and nurturing. Her workshops promote a sense of enthusiasm and inspiration for both men and women, and they assist clients in realising that there are many others experiencing similar challenges, which ensures a community-type environment and a feeling of support.
Tracy’s determination to heal her clients’ relationships can only lead to good. Her end goal: to rekindle the passion in her clients’ love lives, helping them to “find each other”again. She acknowledges that hard work is key to ensuring this goal is met – by both her and her clients. And it’s something she doesn’t shy away from, knowing that with tenacity, her clients’ current intimacy levels can be increased exponentially.
Tracy works with marriages at any stage, with couples (both straight and gay), as well as single people in need of intimacy counselling. While Tracy’s work doesn’t simply focus on the notorious “seven-year itch”, it is a concept she’s very aware of in her practice and among the marriages she works on healing. “There are definitely seven year cycles (seven years, 14 years and so on) where things become a little staid,” she explains. Lesli Doares, a licenced marriage counsellor and family therapist, supports Tracy’s theory, saying that by seven years, a couple has usually had a child or two and children tend to change everything. “It is really the impact of children on the marriage that causes the underlying disconnect that leads to the ‘itch’ to get out,” says Lesli. “It is a combination of responsibility, lack of time for oneself, diminished intimacy and a sense of ‘is that all there is?’” (source: Women’s Health, October 2, 2015).
Speaking of which, as a mother herself, Tracy understands the delicate balance between parenting and marriage, and the challenges children can create once they are born. “Kids dictate what’s going to happen, they change everything and nobody prepares us for that,” says Tracy. “You’re this happy couple, everything is going well until the baby comes and then you see another side of each other that you haven’t seen before.” Then there are intimacy issues. “Many women get their physical needs met through bonding with their baby whereas men still want intimacy through sex,” she explains.
Feeling this type of disconnect? Whether you’re a parent or not, Tracy’s counselling work is about rekindling romance for a renewed intimate relationship. “You’ve just got to do it to understand it,” says Tracy of her sessions. “In other words, do the work and then you’ll understand it.” It’s nothing harmful – it’s about something that is positive, good and that will add value to your life, she explains. The benefits are numerous: “When you’re in synergy with the one you love, you are in a good space and you will find that you’ll sleep better, work better, have more patience with your children and be far more productive. Good sexual health is also great for creativity and for our bodies; it boosts circulation as well as oxytocin and serotonin. The bottom line is that connecting with your partner and being in a good space is wonderful for everyone all round.”
“Everyone” is a standout word in Tracy’s work: her sessions are for men and women in all stages of their lives. “Women feel validated and heard, and so do men,” she explains. “It’s incredible for me to see the ‘light’ come on when couples are shown a whole new way of connecting.”
I can vouch for the fact that Tracy is comfortable chatting about anything and will immediately put you at ease. Nothing is taboo with her, and she’s all about ensuring that her clients walk away in a positive, confident, comfortable space with themselves and their relationship.
Find out more about Tracy, her work and how to contact her, via her website: http://www.totallymetracy.co.za
Every Thursday evening at 19h30, since the end of August, the charismatic Sharon Spiegel Wagner has had South Africans glued to their TV’s watching SABC3’s BEDFORD WIVES, as the local comedy-drama unfolds with her character, the feisty Despina Giannopolous, taking centre stage.
Set in the lavish but seedy Johannesburg east suburb of Bedfordview, Bedford Wives follows the lives of four women and a somewhat sordid community of Bedfordview criminals who, on the surface, live pristine and perfect lives but, behind closed doors, have skeletons in their closets and secrets aplenty.
When her charming restaurateur husband, Marco Giannopoulos, is found dead under a side of lamb and dripping in gourmet olive oil, Bedfordview housewife and Mrs South Africa entrant, Despina, vows to keep the family businesses going – but then learns the real family business is crime…
Nothing is at it seems…
I’m not ashamed to say I’m completely hooked, and won’t miss an episode! It’s completely addictive, and ticks all the boxes for unmissable TV!
I recently sat down for coffee and a chat with Sharon to find out what life’s been like for her since Bedford Wives hit our TV screens – and if you haven’t caught on yet (we’re already 9 episodes in with just 5 left), you can catch up on YouTube where you’ll find all past episodes.
And indeed, nothing is as it seems, because Sharon is quite delightful; modest and unassuming and not at all like her onscreen persona, Despina, who is very much the typical ‘Bedford Wife’ and wouldn’t be caught outside of the house (or probably inside, for that matter) without her full armour of make up, designer clothing and killer heels!
Although Sharon’s first love is definitely musical theatre, her experience on Bedford Wives has been so positive that it’s quite encouraged her to explore the possibility of further TV roles in the future. She wasn’t initially asked to audition for the role of Despina, and in fact, was the very last person to audition for the part. Just an hour later, she got a call from her agent to say she’d got the job. Sharon describes her complete shock at hearing the news, but once she realised that it was actually true, she was (I quote) “sublimely excited”. And it’s proved to be a dream from beginning to end with the entire cast and crew being not only amazing to work with, but also completely understanding and flexible around Sharon’s other role: that of being mom to her 2 young daughters, one of who was just a few months old at the time of filming the series.
It was this that made Sharon realise that she might quite like to pursue more TV work in the future as it’s more adaptable to family life. She loves the art of acting and has grown enough within it to know what’s right for her and what isn’t. When she knows a role’s not for her, she’s excited to see who will play it. This is the mark of a true professional, or as Sharon so aptly describes it: “There’s an actor that loves the art, and there’s the actor that loves himself in the art.” That individual who purely loves himself in the role, and who cannot bring himself to rejoice in the success of a colleague is not quite there yet, regardless of whatever talents may have been bestowed on them.
When asked if she’d be happy for her kids to work in a similar or related industry to the one she’s currently in, knowing what she knows about all of the demands and drawbacks as well as the constant struggles and one-upmanship that the business is notorious for, Sharon’s immediate reaction is “Preferably not!”
But then … on reflection … she reconsiders. She feels that no matter what career they decide to follow (even if they want to become actors), there has to be understanding, appreciation and love for what one does, and they need to feel a true purpose for what they’re doing. When it comes to sensitivity they need to know how the business works. She reiterates, “… especially this business.”
For now, Sharon is taking a break, spending time with her kids and thoroughly enjoying watching them grow. She’d love to do more TV work, and is thrilled that Bedford Wives has opened up new horizons for her. We shared our strong views on how absolutely crucial it is for women to support each other and encourage each other. So often though, you find the opposite happening – we tear each other apart, instead of building each other up! Here once again, Sharon returns to the Bedford Wives set, speaking admiringly of her female director who allowed her the freedom to add her own interpretation into her role of Despina, or as she describes it, “a bit of quirk,” and who put her at complete ease with some scenes that she might otherwise have felt quite uncomfortable performing.
So, what’s next after this break? “Something BIG … I hope,” laughs Sharon, explaining that this is usually the work pattern that she follows. Whether it’s back on stage, where she feels most at home, or on our TV screens playing another feisty, go-getting, glitzy leading lady, Sharon puts heart and soul into everything she does, so whatever it is, we know it’s going to be fabulously fantastic!!
(But … no pressure, or anything!)
Filicide – The deliberate act of a parent killing his or her child.
SMA – Spinal Muscular Atrophy
In April 2014, the media was in a frenzy over the case of a South-African born mother, residing in England who killed her three severely disabled children. We watched as the story unfolded, riveted, horrified, saddened and bewildered. We discussed, we pondered, we wondered … how does a parent, a mother no less, cut short the life of her own child? It’s unthinkable, surely? What frame of mind must she be in? What horrors must she have endured? What depths must she have plundered? What precipice must she eventually have reached?
Not once do I remember anyone considering the ridiculous notion that maybe, just maybe, given the choice, those children might have chosen to live. Despite their obvious challenges, the numerous obstacles they’d undoubtedly face throughout their lives, what if they actually possessed the strength of character to surprise us all and overcome all of these? Well it’s a moot point isn’t it, because that choice was stolen from them; their lives snuffed out by the very person who was meant to protect them above all else: their mother.
And this is where theatre becomes the perfect conduit for abstract narrative. Based on the events described above, Eva Mazza has created Acceptance, a piece that demands we listen to the voices of the child victims of filicide.
Legendary South African actor Jerry Mofokeng plays the judge, trying to get a decent night’s sleep after the ‘manslaughter’ case he’s just closed on a mother who’s killed her three ‘severely disabled children’ which is how they were referred to throughout the proceedings, and never identified by name, hence never individualised. He’s woken by a loud knock at the door and so begins his surreal journey into an alternative trial, where he’s forced to hear the opinions of three personalities who it seems he did not acknowledge in the trial he’s just concluded.
The use of a stalwart actor like Mofokeng together with three young talents works well in this raw and riveting drama. Lea Viver, Francois Viljoen and Lisa Derryn Overy each display the complex individuality of who their characters could have developed into, had they been given the opportunity to do so, without overplaying their roles. In doing so, they all equally excel at the right to life argument, despite the disabilities that may exist. Presenting the judge with a book of facts to accompany their emotional case, they cite genuine sources from the actual original case, and instances of SMA, where children diagnosed with the condition have lived into their 50’s. This is combined with the use of visual projection, which I felt could have been put to far better use and effect.
Although the objective here is to portray the child victims’ perspective, Lisa Derryn Overy does briefly alternate in the role as the mother. While she re-enacts the reading of a (genuine) letter written to her husband during the actual killing of her children, imagined from opposing viewpoints, I thought it over-dramatic and completely over the top. But immediately realised that I had taken such a huge step back from this woman (as was the intention, when taking the children’s standpoint) that I was looking at her with a far too detached attitude! Of course she was being over-dramatic – she was hysterical, in the midst of such unimaginable horror! So well done to you Lisa, for shocking the audience back into the moment, and the realisation of the deplorable event that took place.
Make no mistake, this production will shock and disturb audiences on various levels. Ultimately though, the intention is to provoke discussion, and more profound reflection of what is generally considered a taboo topic: filicide, and indubitably this is exactly what it does.
Please do take a few minutes to look at the chilling photo gallery downstairs, either before or after the show. It really does add weight to the message that’s being conveyed here.
ALL PHOTO CREDITS: MARIOLA BELA
SUPREME DIVAS – Celebrating Fabulous Women of Song
Can you believe it’s August already?! Finally, that month where we celebrate strong, dynamic, successful, wonderful women! Well, we really should be honouring them all the time, and we do, but in August we really make a song and dance about it and where better to do that than on The Mandela stage at Joburg Theatre, where they’ll be doing it in spectacular fashion with Supreme Divas.
The show will run from Thursday 11 August to Sunday 14 August for four performances only.
Supreme Divas will delight audiences old and young as they celebrate the powerhouse female singers that have become legends through their music over the past few decades.
Homage is paid to “old school” divas including Etta James, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Donna Summer and many others while younger audiences will relish the celebration of hits from “new school” divas including Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Adele and others. A fitting tribute will also be made to a few of South Africa’s own divas including Brenda Fassie, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Miriam Makeba and Claire Johnston.
Taking centre stage will be the insanely talented vocalists Tia Herman, Lelo Ramasimong, Tracey-Lee Oliver and Elizca Coetzer, with Born To Perform teenage sensation Marianthe Panas joining them as she makes her professional theatre debut.
Teen sensation Marianthe Panas has represented KwaZulu Natal in The SA Championships of the Performing Arts (twice), competed in The World Championships of the Performing Arts in Los Angeles and Hollywood, winning numerous awards in both championships – and all before she was her current age of 15.
In her hometown of Durban, she has performed at a number of events including The Durban Theatre Awards, Night of 100 Stars, The Durban Chamber of Commerce Gala Dinner, as well as with the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra at The KZN Young Performers 2016 event.
In Johannesburg, she caught everyone’s attention with her showtopping performance in Born To Perform’s Gala Concert in July 2015 and again recently when she was one of the vocalists in the Johannesburg Youth Orchestra’s concert A Night With The Stars.
Supreme Divas marks her professional theatre debut.
I was particularly taken with the notion of a 15-year-old performer taking to the stage with such experienced artistes, and instantly wanted to chat to her, convinced that this absolutely had to be a Diva in the making; would she be over-confident, precocious and petulant? Surely you’d have to be to hold your own, taking to the stage with the combined experience of your fellow performers?
Unfortunately, due to time and distance constraints, we haven’t yet been able to meet, and had to manage with an email interview. I was immediately completely charmed by Marianthe’s evident maturity and level-headedness, 2 things that will most definitely stand her in good stead for the career that she clearly wishes to pursue.
Here’s my Q & A with Marianthe, and you’ll see what I mean (I’m the ‘J’, she’s the ‘M’ and some of my comments are added in her answers in brackets):
I’m really looking forward to meeting you, and to seeing the show, but in the meantime … a few questions (and no pressure J).
J: Take me through what would be a ‘normal’ day for you, when you’re not rehearsing for a show or a competition.
M: Well, I would be at school until 14h30. After that, I would either be attending hockey practice, dance, acting or singing classes. I’m part of the KZN Youth Choir & rehearsals are from 5 to 9pm every Friday.
J: So you’d already won numerous awards and performed and participated in competitions overseas before you were 15; do you feel like you’ve had to grow up a lot quicker than others who are the same age as you?
M: I haven’t actually thought about that. Well, I haven’t felt like that before. I’ve been singing from a very young age so I’ve grown up performing. I do feel as though I’ve matured faster than some girls in my grade, but I love doing what I do so there isn’t a case of feeling as though I need to grow up a lot quicker. I turned 15 in May & trust me… I act itJ
J: Who’s your biggest Diva inspiration and why?
M: Idina Menzel. She was the lead in the original cast of many musicals I grew up watching. She performs with so much passion & has an amazing vocal range. She has also stayed so humble. [In case you don’t know, Idina Menzel is the voice behind Frozen’s Queen Elsa. That’s right … Let It Go! And she’s just been cast as Bette Midler’s character CC Bloom in the TV remake of Beaches.]
J: And who inspires you most in the non-performing world?
M: My twin brother. He got a virus in his spine, which paralysed him from his waist down for about 3 months when we were 12 years old. Although, he can now walk – he is not 100% recovered. He has a dropped foot & needs to wear a brace on both feet. To this day, he has never complained or given up. That takes a lot of guts to do so I always look up to him for inspiration.
J: Give us a playlist of your all-time favourite top 5 songs/pieces of music – any and all genres?
M: Don’t Rain on my Parade – Barbara Streisand [One of my all-time favourites too!]
I knew you were trouble – Taylor Swift
Stone Cold – Demi Lavato
Bound to You – Christina Agulera
The Story of Us – Taylor Swift
J: Do you read? If so, what do you read?
M: I love reading mystery & fantasy. My all time favourite book series is Pretty Little Liars & the Mortal Intruments. (I’m kind of obsessed)
J: You’ve been given the opportunity to play the leading role in the movie of your choice … which movie do you choose, and which role? And (most important) who do you choose as your leading man and why?
M: I would pick The 5th Wave. I would play the role Cassie as she tries to find her missing brother in an alien apocalypse. [Yes, it’s Sci-Fi!] She is as a strong willpower and the love she has for her brother is never-ending. I would choose Chris Hemsworth – duh! [Like she said … a typical 15 year old!]
J: What do you have to say to our world leaders right now? (Don’t be shy!)
M: I’m not so clued up in politics, but I would say all leaders seem to think of themselves instead of their people. They get richer and the poor get poorer. [Darling, you think you’re not so clued up in politics, but you seem to have summed it all up in a nutshell right there … spot on!]
J: What are some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned so far from fellow performers?
M: STAY HUMBLE! Don’t act like a Diva or a know all. There’s always something to learn from someone else more experienced than you.
J: And finally … where would you like to be in 5 years’ time? (Sorry, I know it’s a really boring, clichéd question, but it has to be asked – there’s such a vast ocean of difference between 15 and 20!)
M: Hopefully studying Musical Theatre. My biggest dream in life is to perform on Broadway.
Isn’t she just so lovely and grounded? I can’t wait to meet Marianthe in person, and I really appreciate her taking some time out to answer my questions.
The Supreme Divas will be onstage along with a dynamic 9-piece band led by Music Director Llewellyn George. Audiences will thrill to instantly recognisable hits including R.E.S.P.E.C.T., Somewhere, If I could turn back time, I’m every woman, Hot Stuff, Stop in the Name of Love, Vulindlela, Valerie, Unqombothi, Do You Know where you’re going to, If I were a boy and many more.
This is the ultimate concert experience, honouring a selection of the many women who’ve made an indelible mark on the local and international music industry.
Joburg City Theatres will be producing the show. “We want to portray South African talent at its best,” says Claire Pacariz, Executive Producer for Joburg City Theatres. “And with Women’s Day on August 9th, we thought it would be an ideal time to honour legendary women in song.”
Performances for Supreme Divas run from Thursday to Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm on The Mandela Stage at Joburg Theatre.
For group bookings of 10 or more, please contact the theatre directly on (011) 877 6853/6815.
Supreme Divas is proudly brought to you by Joburg City Theatres in association with The CoLab Network and directed by Timothy Le Roux. Vocalists will be dressed by Hollywood Costumes.