Why Ebo Whyte’s ‘Just The Tip’ is a ‘maybe’
I am relatively new to the Ebo Whyte scene so I don’t think I can call myself a fan yet. Let’s just say if Ebo Whyte was a chef, I’m a patron still adjusting my palette to his dishes.
So far I have been to about five Roverman productions and while I may have several reservations about his style of storytelling, I can say his plays are interesting and always get the audience laughing.
In an industry that is declining (that is if it has already not declined) Ebo Whyte’s ability to pull mammoth audiences to the National Theatre every quarter of the year to watch his productions is a testament to his hard work and great skill as a playwright.
I dare say he’s the force majeur of Ghana’s theatre scene and there are no two ways about that.
It is for this reason that on a hot Sunday afternoon, I and several other people bee-lined to the National Theatre to watch Ebo Whyte’s latest, Just The Tip, at 1pm.
When I got there, the auditorium was not characteristically full; there were many empty chairs so I was spoilt for choice on where to sit.
The reason for the half-filled auditorium was that the 1pm showing time was a new introduction – we were the tear-rubber group – as such the low turnout was expected.
Shortly, the curtains went up and here I was staring at the backyard of Mr. Denteh’s family house.
I must say whoever has been working on Roverman’s stage design never disappoints.
The well-organized backyard was lush green with poison ivies climbing the wall facades and green carpet grass on the floor. You could directly see through the large windows of the house into the kitchen and the living room.
In fact, you could see the different framed pictures of Mr. Denteh and his family hanging from the living room wall and as is characteristic of Ghanaian homes, at least in mine, the lighting in the living room was different from the lighting in the kitchen.
The play then immediately began.
This production was centered around the Denteh family but particularly on Mr. Denteh (played by Richmond Kobina Anaman) himself. On the morning of his birthday, Mr. Denteh is visited by two angels, one, his guardian angel (played by Eli Letsa), and the other the angel of death (played by Kwabena Yeboah).
According to them, his days – no, hours – were numbered so he should get ready.
Denteh who had achieved everything he ever wished for was happy and ready to accept his fate, he only asked that he celebrated his birthday in peace – if only he knew the chaos that awaited him that morning he would have just gone with the angels at once.
Denteh has two daughters, Barbara (played by Claudia Agyekum) and Sarah (played by Lily Nyarkoa Boahene); and a wife, Ama (played by Deborah Akuoko-Frempong), who is as frail as Mr. Denteh himself, and is constantly being haunted by the ghost of her son, Adam, who died five years ago. Ama also has dementia and so does not recognize her children except her husband.
While Barbara is a dutiful daughter who does not go to church because her church of choice, the National Cathedral, has yet to be built, Sarah is a ‘church whore’ who jumps from one church to the other seeking prayers and ‘akwankyire’.
On that morning as plans for Mr. Denteh’s birthday party are underway, Sarah bursts into the house accusing her parents of being behind the setbacks in her life, particularly her inability to stay married (she has been divorced thrice) and her born-one status.
This was information she got from her pastor.
It was also what snowballed the play into bizarre revelations about marital infidelities, compromises, near-incestuous relationships, and finally death.
The play for me was quite underwhelming, and I’ll explain why.
First and foremost, while the text teaser of the play had sort of centered on Barbara and Doc’s (played by Providence Klugan) relationship and the revelations that emerge as a result of their insistence on getting married, anyone who watched the play would realise the Barbara and Doc story was really treated as a side story and not the main story.
Watching the play, I kept wondering ‘what has this got to do with Just the Tip, which in itself connotes something of a sexual nature?’ It was until later in the play that the ‘Just the tip’ was alluded to and to be honest, it felt like an afterthought.
Also, Ebo Whyte really likes his songs, but I’m beginning to think sometimes he overdoes them. For instance, in this play even before they had gotten to the climax they had gone through more than 15 quick songs already. I feel the story would have been better if he had allowed the characters speak more than sing.
And the songs he used were very familiar songs, as in, he had used them in previous plays, thus watching this play made it feel like re-watching scenes from his old plays.
I also think the storyline would have been better off without the Adam bit. Aside from the uncanny semblance of the Adam storyline to the recent Christian Atsu tragedy, his role was inconsequential to the play and could have been entirely omitted without adverse effect.
And finally, there were some unanswered questions in the play.
For example, what was the ‘more terrible behavior’ that Mr. Denteh had engaged in that justified him forgiving his wife for having a child with another man?
And what did Sarah do to her third husband that finally led to their divorce?
I should say that Gabi Nova’s guest artiste performance was exciting; he really energized the auditorium and got many patrons dancing.
I, however, think when he transitioned into Denteh’s ghost, his language should have also aligned with Denteh’s. I could not help but hear a slight faux accent any time he spoke.
Doc’s singing was spectacular, the audience loved him, but I think Amelia (played by Justina Adarkwa), the granddaughter of Denteh, gave him a good run for his money in that department.
Indeed, while I didn’t enjoy the play as much as some previous plays like ‘He Said; She Said’, I do admit it still has the potential to ease your stress and make you laugh out loud after a stressful week.
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