17 August 2007

Ghana: 'In the Chest of a Woman'


WHOEVER THOUGHT the flame of drama has been put out in the Ghanaian entertainment scene should have been at the National Theatre last weekend to witness 'In The Chest of a Woman', a play written and staged in honour of the Chief Justice of Ghana, Mrs. Georgina Theodora Wood.

Present at the theatre was her Lordship Mrs. Georgina Wood and several other noble dignities including Ms. Joyce Aryee.

The play, written and directed by Efo Kodjo Mawugbe had its setting in the ancient Kingdom of Ebusa, where a dying queenmother bequeathed the stool to Kwaku Duah II, and made Yaa Serwaah (a role played by Agatha Ofori), her eldest daughter, custodian of three villages.

Basically, the story unfolds around Naa Yaa Serwaah and her quest to rule the kingdom given to her younger brother, this happens when she questions the rationale behind what she feels constituted a flagrant disrespect for seniority.

She is told straight in her face by her dying mother and the elders of the village, "you are a girl and your brother is a boy", thus the idea of her mother and elders preferring the younger brother over her, infuriates Yaa Serwaah to challenge the men in the palace to a duel.

The duel scene, which involves her and the men in the palace, showed extreme bravery on her part and extreme cowardice on the part of the men, this particular scene brought out the fact that there was no better person fit for the role of Naa Yaa, other than Agatha Ofori. Not only was she natural in her acting skills, her showmanship was also brilliant.

Apparently, the fight was just the beginning of the baring of her chest. After defeating the men in the palace, Yaa storms out of the presence of her mother and the elders to their dismay.

Her brave act wins the respect of her mother and consequently a new name "Naa Yaa Kyeretwee" literally meaning Yaa the antelope hunter.

This new name given to her by her mother signified her belief in her daughter's braveness to rule; despite this she maintains her position of making Kwaku Duah II ruler until either Yaa or Kwaku have a son as their first child, that first son would become the successor of the stool and thus inherit the whole kingdom.

Unfortunately, King Kwaku Duah II's first born was a female named Ama Ekyaa and thus rendering her impractical to become king and also impossible for the lineage of Kwaku to rule.

History repeated itself when Yaa also had her first born being a female, but obviously as it was that in the chest of a woman is not only an extension of the breast and a feeble heart, but a strong desire to hold and use power!

She disguises the true identity of her child and goes ahead to name her Owusu. So ambitious was she that, anyone who talked of or doubted the identity of Owusu the king to be, is given a ticket to the land of the ancestors by assassins, even the nurses that witnessed her birth lived not to show the evidence of their profession.

In a nutshell, Yaa Serwaa's king-to-be was a man with the soft voice of a woman, pretty looks and gracefulness; simply put he was beautiful.

Truth some say can never be hidden; that it so happened that during the initiation of Owusu in the Palace of Nana Kwaku Duah II, his daughter fell in love with Owusu, and when he refused her love, because of reasons known to you and I, that became his downfall.

The play was laced with interesting statements and hilarious moments that made the audience roar out with laughter, the peak of such moments was the part of two slaves in the palace of Nana Kwaku Duah II. These two happened to have chosen gossip as their next occupation aside doing palace chores.

Edinam Atasti and Agnes Panfred played Akosua and Adjoa the two gossips respectively; their role proved that years on stage has made it a home for them.

It was no wonder, but a compliment to them as they moved around comfortably on stage perfectly at ease.

Finally, Owusu had to prove why he could not impregnate Ekyea and that resulted in the death of the ambitious NaaYaa Keretwie. The queenmother's failure to save her female son and the embarrassment she had to face sent her on an early journey to the land of her ancestors.

The proverbs used by the linguist enlightened the audience in terms of wisdom, and most importantly traditions and customs were evident in the play. And together with the settings on stage one could actually feel the presence of the palace and not a Theatre stage. Kudos to the set designer!

Your exciting Chronicle's entertainment driver has made several stops at the National Theatre to observe shows, and never has there been a show that has lived up to its starting and closing time than 'In the chest of a Woman' thumbs up to the director who also happens to be the writer of the play.

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