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Opinions of Friday, 20 December 2019

Columnist: Manasseh Azure Awuni

MANASSEH’S FOLDER: Why I will never watch Ebo Whyte’s play for free

Ohemaa Kusiwaa, a young lady who works in Tamale flew to Accra to see James Ebo Whyte’s latest play, “God, You’re Fired”. That play was Roverman Production’s play for the last quarter of 2019.

Ohemaa Kusiwaa was one of the thousands of young and old audience who thronged the National Theatre to watch yet another masterpiece from the most consistent entertainment show for the last decade.

When I asked Ohemaa whether what she saw was worth the cost of coming to Accra, she was quick to say YES. And this would not be her last. She is prepared to come any time there’s an Ebo Whyte play.

“In fact, I’m preparing to come back in January,” she said.

Like many people who do not miss Ebo Whyte’s shows, Ohemaa says a number of factors made her fall in love with the playwright and his work.

“He always combines comedy, religion, faith and great music. All his cast have amazing voices,” she said, adding that she was a lover of music. The last play, like of many of Ebo Whyte’s plays, was as if it had been customised to reflect Ohemaa’s life experiences.

“There’s something about this one, “God, you’re fired”, that I needed to see. It kind of gives me a better perspective about life and God, and everything that we’re going through or have been through.”

For her, Ebo Whyte’s plays teach very practical lessons of life, and one could easily relate with the themes and specific scenes as though they were a mirror of one’s private life.

“I had been through a stage in my life that I got very disappointed [with God]. I stopped praying. I stopped going to church. I stopped doing anything God-related,” she said. “I thought I had done everything right and deserved to have whatever I asked for, whatever I prayed for. But it wasn’t happening.”

After leaving the National Theatre, however, she had a better understanding of herself and her relationship with God. She left with a lighter burden and a much happier soul.

“There’s a thing about this play too. While it entertains you, it uplifts your spirit,” she told me.

Ohemaa’s review of the creative works of Ebo Whyte and his Roverman Production won’t be marked different from those of many other patrons who have followed the works of the renowned playwright and motivational speaker over the years.

The quality of his stories and production is the reason I decided a little over three years ago that I would not go to the National Theatre to see an Ebo Whyte play for free. Like some of my colleagues at Joy FM, I used to get complimentary tickets to watch Ebo Whyte Plays.

After leaving the National Theatre one day, however, I told my wife that I felt guilty I had not paid for such quality work. There and then, I made a decision that I must pay to see Ebo Whyte play.

Ebo Whyte’s plays are family oriented. It is common to see different generations of the family attending in a group, but each play is sure to have useful lessons for grandma, daddy and the children.

As a young person who is worried about the sanity of Ghana and our collective failure to inspire hope for the future generations, James Ebo Whyte and the Roverman Productions present that ray of hope that dispels some of the most toxic myths about the Ghanaian.

In Ghana, almost every programme or show starts with an apology for starting late. But the car park of the National Theatre is always full about 30 minutes to the start of an Ebo Whyte Play. Some patrons come an hour earlier.

The shows are often advertised for 4p.m. and 8pm., and over the years, that has been the exact time the curtain is raised. If you enter the theatre at 4:01 pm. or 8:01pm., you will miss a scene or part of the opening scene.

This has been consistent and no matter the greatness of the personalities attending, an Ebo Whyte show would not delay for a minute if they are not present at the time advertised.

He does not take his audience for granted and if Ghanaians adopt the Ebo Whyte principle, we won’t have to advertise 5pm for the start of a programme when we actually have in mind that the official starting time would be an hour late.

There is also the perception that Ghanaians don’t like theatre, but the Roverman Productions has proved that this is not true. Perhaps, what they don’t like is lousiness and mediocrity.

There was a day James Ebo Whyte apologised profusely to his audience on an insignificant hitch in the sound, which the average audience might not remember by the time the play ended. His dedication to quality and excellence and consistency are some of the useful leadership lessons one learns beyond the entertainment value in the productions.

The Roverman Productions stages four plays each year, one in each quarter. At the end of the year, and during Christmas and the New Year, there is the Festival of Plays.

If you missed Ebo Whyte’s plays during the year, this is an opportunity to join, Ghanaians, foreigners, ministers of state, public servants, students, and people from all walks of life to see the life-transforming and soul-lifting plays this Christmas season.