Paradise Blue is perhaps the more famous in the trilogy of plays called The Detroit Project written by award-winning African American playwright Dominique Morisseau. The other two being Detroit ‘67 and Skeleton Crew and what these plays share in common is how they are focused on unpacking the socio-political history of Detroit, USA though the lived experiences of the African-American community. Morisseau’s other plays include Sunset Baby, Pipeline, Blood at the Root and Follow Me to Nellie’s.
Supported by The U.S. Mission to South Africa in commemoration of Black History Month in partnership with the Market Theatre, Paradise Blue is in some odd way a perfect choice in how its central story of gentrification is reminiscent of the forced removals in the South African context i.e the forced removals of Sophiatown, Johannesburg which took place from February 1955 and of District 6, Cape Town which took place from 1968
Directed by James Ngcobo, Paradise Blue is a gem and an ode to the now world-famous soundtrack of the African American life – Jazz! The central character in the play ‘Blue’, played by renowned actor Aubrey Poo, is a jazz musician who is also the owner of the jazz joint Paradise Club, located in a part of town called Black Bottom, in Paradise Valley. Supported by an equally illustrious all-star cast. With actors Pakamisa Zwedala (P-Sam), Seneliso Dladla (Corn), Busisiwe Lurayi (Pumpkin) and Lesedi Job (Silver), the cast delivers top drawer performances which are mesmerizing as each of them not only nail the African-American accent, but flawlessly depict the complex yet colorful personalities of characters who all find themselves squabbling the ownership of Paradise Club, and ‘Blue’s secret decision to sell to the Detroit City Council.
Paradise Blue shows how the challenges facing communities where African-Americans live are not new and they are certainly not unique, the stories have not been ‘humanized’ enough such that they don’t just show an unflattering snapshot of life in but also the resilience of the people living in those communities!
Paradise Blue written by Dominique Morisseau and directed by James Ngcobo performed at the Market Theatre from Friday, January 31st – Sunday 1, March 2020.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.