Photo credit: Jeremy Mimnagh
Looking for something incredible to do this week? Head to the National Arts Centre to see its latest production Obaaberima. Playwright and actor Tawiah M’Carthy won a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Best Outstanding Production in 2013 for his masterpiece. The play actually won three Doras in total: Outstanding Sound Design/Composition and Outstanding Lighting Design set. Rightfully so. Everything about this play is powerful and engaging. It runs until March 14.
Obaaberima (which disparagingly means ‘girl boy’ in Ghana) follows the story of Agyeman, played by M’Carthy, an African-Canadian man who is in prison for committing a violent crime. It is the night before his release and Agyeman, a gay man who has led a life of dual existences, shares his life story. The audience follows him as he journeys back to Ghana, where as a child, he first noticed he was different, relishing in wearing his mother’s clothes and heels.
That is the first time Agyeman experiences what becomes an often-felt confusion and sets him on the track of a life of mixed identities. Agyeman moves within the worlds of gay and straight, black and white, African and Canadian; sometimes with sad outcomes.
You meet his former lovers, some of whom he had when he had barely moved into teenagehood. There is his secret lover, Opayin, the older tailor, who liked Agyeman to dress up as a woman they called Sibongile (symbolizing the female side of Agyeman). Then there is his school-aged lover from the same stage whose heart Agyeman breaks.
When Agyeman escapes to Canada to study, you see how the duality of his life continues. He strives to live a straight life and meets and dates a woman from Ghana also in Canada and even talks of marrying her. Then you see his separate gay life and how he maintains both lives even when he moves in with his gay lover he dearly loves.
Every character is played to perfection by M’Carthy. He is smooth, captures the essence of each and in every case, makes you see the character’s perspective just as much as you understand and see Agyeman’s. M’Carthy is absolutely breathtaking. He grabs at your heart over and over again, eliciting sympathy, empathy, understanding, sadness and some smiles too.
M’Carthy has the help of music, dance and cultural legends to tell Agyeman’s story, accompanied throughout by musician and composer, Kobena Aquaa-Harrison on various percussion-type instruments.
Obaaberima is magic from the second M’Carthy walks on stage until the second he leaves. Catch it now until Saturday March 14.
For more information and tickets, click here.