National Theatre Rots Away
…With Stinking Washrooms, Chairs, ACs Broken Down As Workers Demand Removal Of Executive Director
One of Ghana’s foremost entertainment venues, the National Theatre, built by the Chinese government and opened on December 16, 1992, is now a pale shadow of itself, barely three decades after its construction.
The monumental gift, located on the South Liberia Road, Accra, is now left in a sorry-state and being added to the list of state assets abandoned to rot as a result of the usual poor maintenance culture.
While the management and the board look on helplessly, some basic equipment like chairs, sofas, air conditioners (AC) and carpets are in a very sorry state as though there was no management to run the facility.
The situation is so bad that, the woolen carpet, which was red in colour, has now turned brown, while sofas in front of the accountant’s area, where clients sit before making payment for the use of the facility, are nothing to write home about. Embarrassing pictures of the chairs at the lobby are all torn, exposing the foam inside.
The ship-like facility that used to host several entertainment shows, like Fan World, KiddaFest and Concert Party, among others, in the 90s, has now been deserted by major event organizers because of its current poor state.
The Anchor recalls how patrons at the just-ended National Science and Maths Quiz (NSMQ),as well as the quiz mistress, Prof. Elsie A. B. Effah Kaufmann, were spotted sweating profusely, and occasionally fanned themselves with papers because of the heat.
It is emerging that, since its establishment, the National Theatre has had no major facelift, as governments come and go, even though the edifice is one of two major entertainment centres, aside from the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC).
This and many reasons have forced workers of the facility, located in between the Efua Sutherland Children’s Park and the plush Movenpick Ambassador Hotel, to embark on protests, demanding the removal of the executive director.
They are accusing the Amy Appiah Frimpong-led management of misappropriating funds, and failing to maintain the facility.
The 1,500-capacity facility also leaks badly when it rains, and this was confirmed by movie actor and director, Fiifi Coleman, when he hosted a programme there in September, this year, and spoke bitterly about his experience.
“I decided not to talk about their issues because I’ve said it several times, but they [National Theatre] don’t mind me, I can’t just give up that they are not heeding my suggestions. Whenever it rains, the place leaks. The first suggestion I made they said because it’s a state enterprise, we can’t prioritize it, that’s not how it works,” the actor, who had suggested the privatization of the place, said.
A CitiNews report, filed after a visit to the place yesterday, Wednesday, said that some seats had been replaced with mismatched “foreign” chairs.
Some event organizers seen at the facility who were busily setting the stage for a programme mentioned issues with non-functioning air conditioners.
The situation of the ACs has persisted years, if not decades, as, in 2017, one Nana Poku Ashis, an industry player, angrily registered his discomfort during a concert by songstress Becca.
He screamed at the authorities of the theatre,in a writeup, saying, “The management of the national theatre must not rent their facility out to no Ph*ing persons until they fix the bloody accommodation. Whaaaaaaat heat bi what… eii this is crazzzzy. This is disgrace to the creative art ministry and industry…..Some lazy funny a* nigg*z must lose their jobs….Xylofon media please bless us with an auditorium ok e no hard for you guys koraaa.. humble appear duh.”
Mr. Fiifi Coleman, in September, this year, decried how he had to spend extra money to purchase mosquito repellant, sounds and external lights to aid his show.
He had, as far back as 2022, disclosed that even talkbacks to aid production were not available and he had to use his phone to communicate with his team.
He is not the only concerned Ghanaian that has expressed disgust about the situation. A few weeks ago, the general overseer of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC), Pastor Mensa Otabil, expressed similar frustration about the facility, taking a swipe at government for looking on unconcerned.
Speaking at a recent event, organized by the Maker’s House Chapel, Pastor Otabil commended founder Dr Michael Boadi Nyamekye for constructing a state-of-the-act auditorium.
Using the National Theatre to make a point, Dr.Otabil said it was a typical example of the state’s poor handling of its edifices.
“Many times, when we see God use a person like Dr. Boadi Nyamekye here, and you see him and see the amazing work that God has done with him…This is how even the Government of Ghana will struggle to build this.
“And I am not in any way insulting the Government of Ghana. I’m just speaking like Jesus Christ. Let the facts be facts. Because you know, our National Theatre, which is under severe malnourishment, was built by the Chinese and dashed to us,” he said at the Experience Conference 2023 on October 1, this year.
Others including members of the Arts and Entertainment group, especially playwrights, have had cause to complain and the lack of modern equipment affecting their work.
Playwright Kobina Ansah, for instance, had issues with power in last December, when the national grid was put off and his play, “Once Upon A Riddle,” was rudely interrupted.
And so as was done for the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum by the government, the National Theatre will have to be relooked at.
The National Theatre is supported by the government, and is largely devoted to musical performances and stage productions, among others.
The issue about the theatre is not different from what is happening at the sports arena. In that discussion, most of the stadia have been grounded to a halt, leading to CAF declaring that all the stadia, with the exception of the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi, are not fit for purpose.
Aside from the 1,500 seats in its auditorium, the National Theatre also has an exhibition hall, a rehearsal hall and an open-air theater.
In 1992, it was opened to spearhead the Theatre movement in Ghana by providing a multi-functional venue for concerts, dance, drama and musical performances, screenplays, exhibitions and special events.
It was born out of a cooperation agreement signed between the Governments of the Republic of Ghana and the People’s Republic of China on the 18th of September 1986 in Beijing.
The National Theatre, whose structure resembles a ship, was designed by Chinese architects, Cheng Taining and Ye Xianghan, in collaboration with Ghanaian professionals. Its construction began on the 8th of March, 1992 and was completed on the 16th of December, 1992.
It is made up of three distinct buildings, each housing its own company – the National Dance Company, the National Symphony Orchestra and the National Theatre Players. Each of the three companies has its entrance with the National Theatre players having the largest building and grandest entrance.