In the spirit of celebrating creativity and heralding indie-alternative theatre culture in Ghana, Accra Theatre Workshop (ATW) held the second edition of the container plays. This installment was dubbed “An African Walks into a Container” and was hosted at the afrocentric Nubuke Foundation in East Legon, a vicinity of Accra. The Container Plays featured a series of ten-minute plays (set in a container) and based on screenplays from eight playwrights: Edem Dotse, Kobina Graham, Jemila Abdulai, Fiona Leaonard, Donna Hoke, Emmanuel Deegbe, Akwasi Addai and Gbontwi Anyetei.
The interpretation of “container” was not limited and the scripts sampled various contemporary thematic elements from love to corruption to death. The set was minimalist and the atmosphere ambient. All the scripts were acted out against the black background with different pieces of the set moving around as the tales evolved, placing the audience in a “container”. The experience was extremely refreshing largely due to its brevity and simplistic beauty; each play was straight to the point and revolved around motifs that members of the diverse audience – old or young, native or expatriate – could easily identify with.
The night’s entertainment began with Runner’s High by Donna Hoke, set in a steam room. A spirited conversation between two athletes exposed classic struggles of passion versus logic and/or education. Emmanuel Deegbe’s Waiting Room depicted the rapport between a receptionist and two job applicants. It was exquisitely executed, satirizing corruption and bureaucracy in Ghanaian business establishments. Next up was Akwasi Addai’s In Loving Memory which celebrated the legacy and impact of missing and presumably dead Ghanaian hip-life artist, Castro.
Fiona Leonard interpreted a container in the Ghanaian sense and set her story, We Are All Blind in the Darkness, in a shipping container aboard a cargo ship. Among all the others, this performance was the closest to traditional tragedy because of its apparent seriousness with a pinch of humor. The writer combined theatrical elements in illustrating the plight of stowaways, with a deeper meaning. Jemila Abdulai’s Ti Pa Kuna was by a mile the most avant-garde play. It integrated many art forms such as music, dance, and language in an unmatched way, almost cryptic. It was written in Dagbani, a predominant language in Ghana’s North) and was accompanied by English translation. Extremely minimalist, it subconsciously emphasized the concept of The Container Plays.
Then came the comedies, beginning with Did We Get the President by Gbontwi Anyetei. This satire attacked the “big-man” complex of African men through vigilante action. It was an interesting infusion of serious humor and suspense. Edem Dotse’s Cupid and the Steel Arrow, also a satire, demonstrated the follies in the supposed perfection of love, the process of falling in love and nuptial relationships. It fused roman mythology into modern society. The Weave by Kobina Graham ended the event with an over spill of laughter by lampooning over-exuberant charismatic churches and the commercialization of ritual hair.
The audience received the production delightfully, with everyone present thoroughly thrilled by the ingenuity of both the writers and the crew. With the help of three vibrant directors (Emelia Asiedu, Elisabeth Sutherland, Yaba Armah), ATW put together a cast of five exciting actors who brought the words to life (Ophelia Dzidzornu, Jamal Shaibu, Comfort Arthur, Andy Tettey, Esmond Aggrey-Azumah). Cast member Jamal was happy to have been a part of this show and said that the reception and exposure he and the other members received was wonderful. Director Emelia Asiedu also shared plans to expand the show to other venues; she mentioned that ATW’s next production is scheduled to take place in December.
The Container Plays was a riveting delivery of theatre arts with universal appeal, highlighting the brilliance of the Ghanaian entertainment industry currently shrouded by mediocrity. Visit the gallery (below) to relive the experience.
Written by Hakeem Adam