Garba story – a review

Last weekend, I received a free ticket to a performance of “Garba Story” – it’s unfortunately rare to see theatrical performances in Abidjan, so this was something of a treat. The performance was written and put together by the Lebanese cultural extraodinaire Zein Abass, who somehow manages to get these things off the ground. I’m not sure of the exact reason why they didn’t use the Palais de la Culture, the normal venue for these sorts of things, but they used a dedicated venue – a large tent put up in the grounds of a local school. This allowed them to try and add value to the performance by creating a temporary exhibition area and restaurant as well where all guests were entitled to a free plate of garba (local Ivorian fast food).

As with his previous Chwarma stories, this was a very Ivorian comic look at life in Abidjan, complete with a good range of local stock characters: Lebanese businessmen, corrupt policemen, prostitutes, uneducated Burkinabe migrant visitors, communal living, visitors enamoured by Abidjan, and a rather stuck-up French wife who just found everything so frustrating. There were a good number of Lebanese in the audience, but the crowd had a good mix – with Ivorians, whites, metisse and all in between.

In all, the performance was well done – frequently comic and sometimes impressive (with performing youngsters in the intervals). Anyone whose been to a few theatrical events here, will know that there’s not a huge pool of actors (or perhaps the same ones get chosen for the main roles all the time), but that only meant we were seeing well-loved figures on stage. At 15,000 cfa the evening was on the expensive side and out of reach of most, but there’s an audience that can pay in the Zone 4 area and in the week-long run, the venue was apparently close to full every night (at least a thousand seats). I hope we see more of the same, and I’m grateful for those who work tirelessly and frequently thanklessly to put these sort of cultural events on.

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