In February 2018, the all South African production of the musical The Color Purple made its debut on the stage of The Nelson Mandela Theatre at Joburg Theatre. Playing the central role of Celie was a then relatively unknown actress named Didintle Khunou. Celie had become one of the most coveted roles in musical theatre history, recently having earned British actress Cynthia Erivo huge acclaim and a Tony Award for the 2015 Broadway production of the musical.
Audiences were captivated by the depth of Didintle Khunou’s portrayal of Celie, whose resilience against sexual, physical and emotional abuse proves that respect for oneself and others can overcome adversity. Her angelic vocals echoed through to the hearts of audiences in songs such as I’m Here and The Color Purple.
Theatre journalist Lesley Stones wrote about Didi in The Color Purple in 2018: “When the incredible Didintle Khunou belts out I’m Here in The Color Purple, the audience is right there with her, on its feet and wiping away tears above the smiles. Goosebumps abound. Khunou has come out of nowhere to soar in this bold musical that makes browbeaten black women the stars of its story.”
Janice Leibowitz in her blog Glitterantoast.com said: “Didintle Khunou plays Celie with dignity, charm and strength and a voice that will capture your heart.”
The blog El Broide stated “Didintle Khunou gives what can easily be considered the best theatrical performance on any stage this year” and the acting profession agreed: Didi’s portrayal earned her a 2019 Naledi Theatre Award for Best Actress in a Musical, one of the most prestigious recognitions for theatre in Gauteng, South Africa.
Now producers Joburg Theatre and Bernard Jay are delighted to announce that Didintle Khunou will once again be reprising the role of Celie in the April 2020 season of The Color Purple at Joburg Theatre.
“I am so elated to be back as Celie,” says Didi. “I throroughly enjoyed both runs last year and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to step into Celie’s shoes again.”
“Didi truly earned the role of Celie in her early auditions,” claims renowned director of the South African production, Janice Honeyman. “I cannot imagine an actor more suited to continue achieving such a success in the role.”
Didi graduated and obtained a BA Honours Degree in Dramatic Arts at the Wits School of Arts in Johannesburg. She trained at ActorWize, a professional acting course for film and TV facilitated by respected teacher, actor and director Rajesh Gopie and also trained at Indigo View Advanced Actors Academy, founded by Steven Feinstein. Her training at the academy was facilitated by award winning actors, directors and casting directors such as Sylvaine Strike, Pamela Nomvete, Fiona Ramsey, Louise Saint Claire, Craig Friemond and Christa Schamberger. She furthered her training at the Duma Ndlovu Academy, which is facilitated by the highly established producer and director of Word Of Mouth Productions, Duma Ndlovu.
Apart from her role in The Color Purple, Didintle Khunou played the lead on stage in an adaptation of Yerma and appeared in Bertolt Brecht’s epic play The Caucasian Chalk Circle. She has made many television appearances in shows like Mamello Seasons 2 & 3 on SABC2, directed by SAFTA award-winning director Zuko Nodada, and Single Galz Season 2 on SABC 1, directed by award-winning actor and director Rea Rangaka. Didi is currently starring in Mzansi Magic’s Tswana telenovela The Throne and will be playing the role of Janet in the musical The Rocky Horror Show at the end of the year.
Joining Didintle Khunou on stage in The Color Purple in 2020 will be acclaimed South African actors Lelo Ramasimong, Neo Motaung, Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri, Sebe Leotlela and Thokozani Nzima.
At Joburg Theatre from April 2nd to 12th 2020, The Color Purple tickets are available by phoning 0861 670 670, going online at www.joburgtheatre.com or booking in person at the Joburg Theatre box office. Theatre patrons can also book online and pay at selected Pick N Pay stores.
Jennifer Platt, writing in the Sunday Times in 2018, said of The Color Purple “You know you are watching transcending theatre when there is that kind of interaction ending with a ten-minute standing ovation…a punch-in-the-gut tale of resilience and redemption.”