Pulse Blogger, Kwame Gyan reviews the latest theatrical installation by Uncle Ebo Whyte, Sankofa.
Uncle Ebo's Sankofa must be screened to....
So I can't say that loud so imagine me whisper this into your ears...shall we gather our University dons at the national theatre so they watch Uncle Ebo's Sankofa?
Permit me to side track for a minute....
I am a fan of the theatre. I recall back at Legon there was a semester I didn't miss a single production at the School of Performing Arts' Efua Sutherland Drama Studio. I have said in a previous piece that I find the now eight year in the roll staging of original plays by Ebo Whyte as a welcoming relief and a brilliant alternative to getting entertained.
I know some folks who find some of his story lines pedestrian and predictable. Others have said there seem to be too much music and dance in some of the productions. For those accustomed to the works of Shakespeare, Ola Rotimi, Ama Ata Aidoo and other playwrights, they expect a lot more.
But what I have realised though is that Roverman Productions has a different mission and from where I sit, that mission is met every quarter. As an outsider, it seems the mission is to take pertinent, current issues in the country and put it in a production with a fusion of music, dance, drama. To this end, them force (as we say).
Now where were we....
I watched the premier of Sankofa last Wednesday. From what I have observed, the premier often gives the team a chance to tweak the play before it commercially opens. So the weekend plays sometimes have better sets, more compact and better acting as a result of the observations from the lead-sponsor enabled premiers.
Sankofa to me was a humoured illustration of how the Ghanaian teacher and indeed the non teacher stifles innovation, creative, mentorship and growth in the Ghanaian by some addiction to a line of knowledge imparting that is contrary to what the lecturers themselves know. Sankofa tells the story of two ageing academics who travel across the world to Australia to attend a lecture by a Ghanaian born Nobel laureate and to confer on him an honorary doctorate as well. Unknowing to them, the laureate, Professor Fergusson happened to be a past student of one of the ageing academics who failed him in Ghana and said he didn't have what it takes to succeed. We are also told of the very common story of how parents force their kids to pursue professions they have no interest in.
Uncle Ebo as always makes sure the music chosen are on point and fit well into the script. This was no different. The cast also performed the songs quite brilliantly.
Same as the dance moves as well...and oh it was a smart decision to allow the audience to film the curtain call choreography. Audience are not allowed to photograph or film the plays so the leeway given was a good bonus.
Attention to detail was good as well. We had swivel doors, sensored-doors, and props that suited the single set production (with occasional tweaks). For instance when a drunk guest came spewing, we had staff using appropriate tools to clean up. We also saw cleaners wiping the 'glass' of the swivel doors as though there were glass. I liked how the professors also pretended to be eating Ghanaian food. I almost believed there was food. The constant ringing of a busy hotel was also very evident.
Script was well put together with timely punchlines and precise delivery. Quite typical of Ebo Whyte.
One of the professors had a walk that was meant to depict an old man. I think he over did a bit. He almost seemed to be dancing and after a while the humour in his work disappeared.
For a busy hotel, I was hoping we will see a lot more people come and go through the foyer. This was not the case.
Play travelled beyond two hours I think and I felt it may have been ideal to keep it just at 2 hours or below it.
Holding an audience's attention for a play for a long time is challenging except if various plots are being unfolded as the time goes on. But in this case, there were no new plots so a quick end may have been great.
I had fun watching the play. I think the folks at Roverman had done well for both us and themselves by keeping this going on for 8 years. To put together a play every three months is an arduous task for both playwright and thespians and for them to have done this for this long deserves commendation.
It may also be a good idea to have other members of the Roverman Productions team try their hands at scripting. It will be fascinating to have the take of other writers in an Eno Whyte produced and directed play. This may eliminate or reduce the level of predictability that is sometimes associated with the plays sometimes.
Go catch Sankofa if you haven't already. It's a good play for couples and for the entire family.