We had a cultural experience last night which enlarged our perspective of the people of Ghana. We purchased tickets to a high school musical production [The Pirates of Penzance] held at the National Theatre. Each ticket was 70 cedis which is about $16 and more than many Ghanaians can earn in a week. We had several questions about the cost and the production itself, but were interested in the Gilbert and Sullivan play as a diversion to our weekly responsibilities. About 12 missionary couples including the Temple President and the MTC President enjoyed the evening.
|The National Theater|
|Three musicians statue|
We arrived almost an hour early and chose to sit by a Ghanaian woman who told us her name was Tamara, that she had attended this high school and had been a chorus member when Penzance had last been put on in 1985. She shared that this school was considered the best in the country and was run by the government. I did not dare ask how you were allowed or chosen to attend. She told us that the beautiful theatre had been built with a grant from the Chinese government in the early 90’s. She also said that Nkrumah, the first President of independent Ghana, had attended that school as well as the past president and first lady of the country. The previous first lady then arrived and sat about 5 rows in front of us.
|Inside the theater - vibrant chair covers! The 2nd balcony is out of view.|
|Tamara, who sang every word in the production|
We wondered if the theatre would be filled [2000-2500seats] but by 6:30 they were mostly taken and we were the only white people there. Then a school representative announced that we were waiting for the arrival of a special guest and then the play would begin. Within a few minutes, the current president of Ghana arrived with his wife and entourage of huge body guards. We all stood as he entered and then sang the national anthem.
The operetta was done by a cast made up of alumni, with the choruses done by current students at the school. The live orchestra was very good, as were the principals. It was fairly standard Gilbert and Sullivan except that in some of the songs the words were changed to fit the current situation. For example, in “I am the very model of a modern major general”, the words were changed to reflect some of the campaign slogans of the newly elected president. There were other insertions that made the production relevant to Ghana and the audience loved it. Unfortunately we couldn’t get all the cultural inside jokes but it was still very fun - a parody of a parody.
|The major general's daughters|
After it was all finished, the MC came onstage to introduce the cast, and then invited the president to join them onstage for a photo-op. Again wildly received by the audience! After all that, the national anthem was sung enthusiastically, followed by the school song, done with equal gusto.
The whole evening was like joining a multi-class school reunion, campaign rally, musical production, and patriotic event all rolled into one. It was a unique insight into this slice of the population, which we have not seen as a group before. These were obviously people with means, committed to raising money for the school, proud of their country and its cultural heritage.