Storyteller as Time-traveler in Mohammed ben Abdallah’s Song of the Pharaoh

Multimedia avant-garde theatre in Ghana

Authored by: Jesse Weaver Shipley

The Routledge Companion to Scenography

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138917804
eBook ISBN: 9781315688817
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores the scenography of contemporary Ghanaian theatre by examining the spatial and narrative aspects of Mohammed ben Abdallah’s Song of the Pharaoh, which premiered at the National Theatre of Ghana in 2013. The theatrical design of this play reveals some of the multiple influences that come together in making contemporary West African theatre. More specifically, it shows how modern Ghanaian drama codifies the improvisational aspects of storytelling and popular theatre traditions through spatial ordering, narration techniques, and embedding multiple genres in a performance. In this style of staging, theatrical time-space shaped around a storytelling idiom reflects debates about historical time. Song of the Pharaoh is emblematic of modern Ghanaian drama and broader contemporary African theatre in transforming formal elements of older performance genres and playing with time-space through design techniques. Specifically, the play codifies older techniques of improvisation and storytelling in its script and staging. By embedding and juxtaposing purportedly traditional styles within a modernist narrative, this play provides a critical lens on the notion of tradition and how it is made and deployed and erased as a mode of power.

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