Published The Mirror, Ghana
Kalsum Sinare, Emmanuel Armah, Nat Banini; They are some of the biggest names in Ghanaian cinema. But they all have one more thing in common – they all began their careers in a theatre company called Theatre Mirrors.
This theatre group is not only one of the oldest non-professional companies in Ghana, it is also the most prolific. Every Saturday at 8pm they devise and perform a new theatre show in Asylum Down.
Since beginning in 1986, the group has performed 1400 times and attracted some of Ghana’s biggest acting talents to hone their skills.
“When we started Theatre Mirrors, there were other [amateur] theatre groups,” says Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey, the founder and leader. “As the years rolled by, other theatre groups have emerged and collapsed, but we have weathered the storm all these years.” Known as ‘The Captain’ from his time in the army, he managed to steer the company through the rocky seas.
It is now one of the few non-professional theatre groups in Ghana, an issue he ascribes to little government funding. “In the early days… the theatre was very vibrant in Ghana and the reason is that the Minister for Culture… gave massive state support. It was wonderful those days.” Since then, lack of state subsidies has made theatre a difficult industry. “All around the world, without state support the arts do not flourish,” he says.
Effah-Dartey runs a tight ship. For the past year, members not only perform every week, but they also rehearse five nights a week. He even writes most of the scripts himself, most based on stories he has come across during his career as a lawyer.
The topics range from family drama to the power of forgiveness, adultery and humiliated politicians. “Most of my scripts are true life stories. Some naturally are comedies, but the majority are serious subjects, serious themes,” he says. “Those who come to watch our scripts, almost always find something new to learn about life.”
This week’s performance is a little different, with a show about the life of Tweneboa Kodua, one of the most famous personalities from Ashanti history. The performance will run Friday, Saturday and Sunday night from 8pm. Even if you’ve never seen theatre before, you’re bound to enjoy it.
“For those who don’t know, watching a theatre performance for me is the most relaxable state of life – the highest form of pleasure,” Effah-Dartey says. “You laugh and laugh, and go home fulfilled… You’ll love it.”
The Citizens Centre is located near the Asylum Down roundabout, walking distance from Nkrumah Circle. Entry is 5 Ghanaian Cedis.