Monday, January 29, 2007

Play Time

On Friday night, we went to a couple of plays at the National Theatre. One was called “Streetism” and was about the life of street children in Accra. The other was called “Everyman,” a morality play about how a rich man must account for his life on earth to get into heaven.

What better way to get to know a place than through it’s culture. Well, we thought we’d gain that insight through the place itself – the plot, the themes, the acting styles. We didn’t consider what role the audience would play.

In most Western theatres audiences are reminded before the show to turn off their cell phones and it’s considered rude to talk during the performance. In Ghana, as it turned out, audience participation is part of the show. From the opening scene of Ghanaian people setting up mats on the streets of Accra to the final scene where street kids were convicted of theft but ultimately released into the care of local churches, audience hooted and hollered, laughed and shouted questions and made comments to the actors on stage. It must have taken incredible concentration to deliver lines amidst the racket in the audience.

At times it felt like the set of a lowbrow U.S. talk show. One particular scene involved a father and a stepmother trying to deal with their son, who is skipping school and getting poor grades. At one point the son puts up his fist and challenges his father to a fight, and the crowd goes nuts, some egging him on, others aghast that he would show such disrespect for his father.

I remember a couple of lines from a heckler who sat behind me. The father at one point was talking to the boy’s stepmother about how his real mother had left him and his son when he was a baby. He told her that’d raised him all by himself. The heckler called out, “Did you breastfeed him too?” When the stepmother was chastising the mother for the boy’s poor behaviour, the heckler shouted, “What are you giving him a hard time? You can’t even have kids.”

Later in the play, a little boy said he ran away to live on the streets because his father and mother were too busy at work to take proper care of him, the heckler shouted, “That’s no reason to leave home.”

At first I felt badly for the actors – especially the little kids – but then I realized it was part of the culture, a sign of their engagement in the play. They weren’t passive observers like they are back home.

I dare someone to try this at the Imperial. Post a note and let us know how it goes J

On Saturday we were torn between spending the day at the beach and the funeral of an important tribal chief that would draw tens of thousands of mourners to the centre of the city.

As travelers we to immerse ourselves in the culture, and in the lives of the people of the place we’re visiting. In the case, attend the funeral of a person who was very important to people here, to get a sense of how they mourn the death and celebrate the life of a public figure.

But then a big part of you just wants to escape the heat, pollution and and relentless busyness of the big city. Go sit by the beach, swim, drink beer, eat good food, go to sleep to the sound of the surf.

We went to the beach … though I felt guilty as we left the city in a cab, and saw mourners making their way through the streets to the funeral. It felt like the right thing to do once we got out there, though. There was a cool breeze coming off the water, a welcome break from heat and humidity of Accra. We stayed overnight, and came back to the city late Sunday afternoon.
- Mark


wubin1123 said...
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Anonymous said...

Hi Mark an Janet,
I commented on the pictures and now on you intereating weekend. I must say you are busy. It sounds like a great place. Lots going on. I look forward to the blog every morning.Take care and keep them coming.
Love, Mummy and Daddy

Lisa H said...

Hi guys,

Sounds like your adventure is off to a wonderful start. Love the photos of you on the beach, particularly since all of us in SJ are freezing in a cold snap. Minus 27C tonight. Guess I can't fault Michael for not running out to the store for snacks! : ) I have passed along your request for tomato paste recipes to Michael. A couple of weeks ago I thinned out some tomato paste with water, added some pesto (yeah, I know not that common in Ghana) and made some decent pizza sauce. We also added some to a lovely ox tail and barley soup that we had tonight. However, unless you're making cold soup, I doubt a steaming broth is what you're after. Evenings sound very romantic without any electricity. Mark I am sorry to report that the Canadians trounced your Bruins something like 5-1 the other night. Beyond that, not much to report. Michael is off to a friend's house to watch the SuperBowl this weekend, Alexandra can now walk backwards and loves playing in the snow. Jennifer Aniston got a second nose job and, yup, that's about all that's new.
Janet, we'll miss you this Thursday, we're off to see Dreamgirls.

Miss you both and look forward to reading all about your travels,


Yogi said...

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