Expectations and Reality

Nothing we’ve done recently has worked out exactly as we expected – that’s Ghana for you!

Winneba

On Saturday 28 July we went to Winneba, a coastal town which is home of the University of Education.  Winneba is not a tourist destination, but we’ve bypassed it several times on our way along the coast road, so we were curious to see what it was like.  It’s not too far from where we live, so originally we planned to go for a day.  But then Ian read in the guidebook about a hotel there which sounded really good, so we decided to stay overnight.

Winneba seemed pleasant enough, the university campus is attractive, and there are a few interesting (rather weird) towers.  So we enjoyed an afternoon stroll around the town and along the beach (though not the part used as a communal toilet).  The hotel was called Lagoon Lodge, and there were no problems with our room there.  The food was decent too, though we had to wait ages and it arrived in a very strange order.

Winneba beach

Cathedral tower (without a cathedral)

Tower at the University of Education

However, we were attracted to the hotel because the guidebook said that the bar overlooked the Muni Lagoon and was ‘perfectly positioned to catch the sunset’.  It sounded beautiful, definitely our kind of place.  In reality, the bar was enclosed by a wall, so you could see neither lagoon nor sunset.  And when we went outside to explore, we found that we would not have seen the lagoon anyway: if it had ever extended close to the hotel, that part had long since dried up.

Looking for the lagoon

The National Theatre

Ghana National Theatre

The National Theatre in Accra is a modern and very impressive building.  We saw it first soon after our arrival in Ghana, and ever since then have been keen to go inside and experience some African drama.  But there were difficulties.  The theatre is used irregularly, and mainly for conferences or religious rallies, so plays are quite rare.  And finding out when plays were on seemed impossible: the website did not work, neither did the phone lines, and even visits to the theatre itself yielded no advance information.

Recently things have improved, and the website does work, although it provides information for only one week ahead.  (And that is not always accurate, and subject to change, as we discovered when we saw a comedy advertised that did not take place.)  But finally, it seemed that we had an opportunity.  Website, phone and TV advertising were in agreement that A Slave’s Story would be performed on the first three evenings of August (though they differed as to whether the start time was 7pm or 7.30).  Despite the existence of a telephone line called ‘Bookings’, there was no way of booking seats in advance, other than making the trek up to Accra, but we were assured we would be able to obtain tickets on the night.

The National Theatre at night

We arrived at the theatre at 6pm, bought tickets and were assured that the play would start at 7.  We knew there was a restaurant at the theatre, and planned to have a quick meal before the play. But when we followed the signs proclaiming ‘International Restaurant’, we were told they did not do food – just drinks!  Not even snacks, and given the limited time before the performance, going elsewhere was not an option.

About 6.45 we went through to the theatre itself – and were told that the play started at 7.30!   So we had plenty of time to look around the large foyer, with some unusual sculptures.

The foyer

Artwork on the foyer windows

Detail of a sculpture in the foyer

The play itself was definitely worth seeing, with a large cast and some singing and dance, although possibly a bit too ambitious in its scope.  But what really amazed us was the size of the audience.  In a theatre that (we estimate) would hold a thousand people, we counted 30.  Apart from one other person, we had the dress circle to ourselves.  The audience was definitely outnumbered by the cast and theatre staff combined.

“A Slave’s Story” onstage

The (empty) Circle

What really amused us though, was seeing the TV advert again the night after our visit to the theatre.  It announced that A Slave’s Story had ‘broken box office records’.  We can only imagine what theatre audiences are usually like here!

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