Costume, make-up, stage, lights, go! It is right there that weeks of grueling rehearsal, a lot of hard work and passion comes to play. It is a beautiful sight indeed; theatre!
Noticeably, day in day out, theatre is metamorphosing into one primary purpose; making people laugh. The kind that throws you into fits of laughter leaving you rushing in style towards the washroom or finding your balance on your seats. Roverman Productions, for example, has a habit of doing that to you; it’s embarrassing actually. (I would add the ‘see no evil’ emojis from Whatsapp at this point if I had them here). But, I digress!
Despite the fact that other forms exist; tragedy, tragicomedy, melodrama etc, comedy seems to have become the most popular genre.
Most patrons of theatre seemingly have become conditioned to the form and will barely enjoy any theatrical performance in any other form. Consequently, coming out of a theatre having watched a very serious play; throwing together ‘humongously complicatedly confusing words’, or unleashing hell's fury on the consciences of the audience, is no longer becoming entertaining.
It is probably for this change in taste in theatrical forms that certain audiences would find a scene funny and laugh their head off when the scene is meant to appeal to the emotional senses of the audience. Most people seem to troop to the theatre today to laugh as they learn.
The question then is, is theatre becoming synonymous with comedy? Or it is simply a better way to reach wider patronage.
At least that’s what playwright and director Latif Abubabakr believes. He insists that the regular theatre lover is not prepared to leave the theatre without experiencing some fits of laughter; a perception that has influenced his choice of genre for the past years.
“I actually feel it’s a better way to send across messages in our terrain now in Ghana.”
He explains saying “if you do a good quality play now and you invite people to come and watch; I have been into this for about 8 years now, when you invite people to come and watch and they don’t laugh, no matter how educative the piece is, they’ll go out and say it wasn’t nice.”
CEO of Roverman productions Uncle Ebo Whyte is one of the directors who has successfully served patrons laughter for the past 9 years. For the man, his primary purpose is to make people laugh. Anything else is a bonus.
I got an interesting analogy when I spoke to him on the issue.The theatre is the constant mirror of society, putting a slice of life on stage and telling the stories of society. Whatever the issues are concerning a particular era ( I’m told the word is /ˈɪərə/,as in ‘ear’ +ra. Go and sin no more!), the theatre of the time puts the issues on the stage and dissect it.
So for Uncle Ebo, “Ghana in recent times has gone through very difficult times. You remember the trauma of the ‘dumsor’, businesses that were retrenching and going down, so, within that kind of atmosphere, the artist began to feel and sense the pain of the people, the mood for the people to be lifted up, to be cheered.”
He believes that most likely, as our problems begin to fizzle out, and our economies gradually become robust, comedy may not necessarily become extinct, but a bit more variety of forms will spice up stage plays.
Ebenezer Asime is theatre practitioner with a Masters degree in directing from Department of Theatre Arts at the School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana, Legon.
He does not “ fully appreciate when theatre is just reduced to making people laugh. I believe theatre has more than what it takes to make people think and take action than just amusing and entertaining them.”
He does admit though, the element of amusement in theatre is not foreign to the Ghanaian; making reference to the term “ agoro” which means play. A founding ideal of the renowned theatre group; Abibigroma.
This debate could probably go on and on; with the theatre purists “beating” us with a host of theatre jargons.
What I do know is that the audience is the final determinant of whether or not a play is enjoyable. If they are satisfied, the aim is accomplished then.
But well, who am I? I’m just a simple theatre lover. One thing I can say for sure is that it’s a beautiful thing, carries you to a different place all the time, and it sure does teach you that ‘hey, life shouldn’t be so complicated, you’ll be fine”.