The Douala-based drama troupe staged their very first performance at the French Institute.
Lights low, a set stage and an attentive audience. Such was the atmosphere at the theatre auditorium of the Douala French Institute yesterday, Wednesday January 22 evening. A group of kids, aged between five and 15, were guests of the first-ever live performance of a drama piece in French titled, "La guerre des fantômes."
The 60-minute play by Martin Ono Belinga was acted by Racines Theatre Troupe with Jeannette Mogoun, Ignace Essounga and Olivier Ngoundé impersonating the various characters in the plot. Set in an imaginary village called Bekon, a young man named Olinga Ngo, the main character, decides to become a great elephant hunter. His desire is spurred by the havoc the animals cause whenever they visit the village and trample on the villagers' crops. This renders life difficult for the villagers who are generally left with nothing during the harvest seasons.
As such, his mother, Messina, leads him to a far away village known as the land of Bekons (literally translated as the land of ghosts); where he would be initiated for the exercise. He spends some days with a patriarch, Beko Bâ Toto, who guides him through the various initiation stages. However, what Olinga Ngo ignores is that the same elephants he is seeking to eliminate are ghosts (totems) from his mother's village. Thus, a ruthless battle is launched between this valiant hunter and his mother's ancestral spirits.
Though a drama piece, the stage performance included other genres like music, dance and the use of puppets to render the text lively. In an interactive session with the kids, the three actors led the audience into a series of narration, dancing and clapping accompanied by choruses. It was a joyful afternoon for the young ones who though entertained, nonetheless retained the didactic underlying of the script. They were taught not to steal, fight or be wicked to one another. At the end of the piece, it was difficult to differentiate between actors and the spectators as they engaged in free dancing session led by Olivier Ngoundé.